Teachers of children whose pragmatic (social language) skills are impaired are often interested in ideas for enhancing the child’s success in the preschool classroom. The following are some ideas for creating an environment that is easier for those children to understand and participate in successfully. In addition, these suggestions support children’s learning through a variety of senses, so you will likely to be supporting ALL your students!
These students overall may have difficulty understanding language, attending to structured activities (especially in large groups), recognizing personal boundaries, moving from one activity to another, using and understanding social (“friendship”) skills (ex: turn-taking, using nice words/voice, etc.), and understanding classroom expectations.
- Consider using VISUALS (pictures, gestures, examples, etc.) to clarify directions. Free clip art is available on the internet. Websites such as www.dotolearn.com also offer free pictures for use.
- Give multi-step directions in the form of “FIRST-THEN” STATEMENTS paired with gestures and less words (ex: “First clean up, then snack” while pointing to the toys to clean up then the snack table).
- Posting and reviewing a PICTURE SCHEDULE will help to increase students’ attention, comprehension of directions, and ability to move from one activity to another.
- Give WARNINGS a few times prior to the end of activities (ex: turn lights off to gain students’ attention, and tell them “3 minutes then clean up”…do the same at 2 minutes and at 1 minute). Other transition warnings include: use of a timer, clean up songs, etc.
- Consider ALTERNATING SEATED AND MOVEMENT ACTIVITIES in your schedule. You can provide even more opportunities for movement by having students help set up the room (ex: move chair from one side of room to circle area) and run errands (ex: take heavier phone book or backpack to the next room).
- MARK PERSONAL BOUNDARIES VISUALLY to help students understand where their area begins and ends. For example, use work mats to mark his/her art supplies or a large “X” taped on the floor to mark his/her spot in line. Consider that some may benefit from 3-dimensional boundaries to further clarify an area. For instance, instead of using a paper mat, it may be helpful to use a cafeteria tray to denote his/her art/snack area or a chair to help establish where his/her body should remain.
- POST AND REVIEW PICTURES/PHOTOS OF RULES (ex: for circle, photo rules may show hands down, feet down, mouth closed, eyes on teacher….or a person sitting still on a chair with hands on lap and eyes straight ahead).
- REINFORCE POSITIVE SOCIAL SKILLS – ex: turn taking, hand raising, cleaning up, etc. — through visuals, peer models, specific praise for completing the skill, etc.
- Try to LIMIT THE USE OF AND/OR EXPLAIN GENERAL TERMS used in directions (ex: “Everyone”, “Boys and girls”), as s/he may not realize this includes him/her.
by Mary Jane Fledderjohn, MS, CCC-SLP/L