Tips on Communicating with Non-Verbal and ELL Students

By lhunsicker

Working with non-verbal or Non- English speaking students can be challenging in the classroom when teacher instruction is based on insuring that all students are provided with academic access and equity. In this article read on to find tips in building up student's verbal skills in the classroom.

Teaching Tips for Building Communication and Verbal Skills

There several ways of communicating with non-verbal or ELL (English Language Learners) students in the classroom that will create bridges of inclusion between them and their peers. With effective teaching tips, the classroom can become a safe place for learning and communication for all students. In building up vocabulary and verbal skills for non-verbal and ELL students, teachers can increase verbal and communication skills for any student deficient in language acquisition. In a typical classroom, there could be a diversity of students with diminished verbal and vocabulary skils.

The following tips or techniques can help non-verbal and ELL students in communicating with teachers as well as with their peers in a more effective way. By building vocabulary and communication skills, students who normally wouldn't participate or communicate will feel more inclusionary in classroom activities and in collaboratory engagements with peers.

  • During Language Group, a teacher or Speech-Language Pathologist can work with a non-verbal or ELL student on building his/her vocabulary by using sign language (i.e. ASL-American Sign Language) at the same time to initiate communication using English skill and vocabulary building.
  • Using picture/word cards is another visual tip to help students form word and object associations; The teacher, Instructional Assistant or designated study buddies can provide individualized instruction with students by pointing to the picture card and verbally saying the word, then signing the word, or a combination of using sign language and saying the word simultaneously.
  • This same picture word card process can be done for math time. Using number/word cards, students see the number, say the number, count it out, and sign the number using sign language. If the teacher or instructor does the verbal cue or sign first and has the student repeat it back, this is modeling, encouraging and expecting the student to participate in the activity.
  • During snack time, everyone in the class works together and uses sign language to sign word-activity to describe how to eat and drink, and how to say "please, and thank you." By using these techniques, the children are interacting and communicating with each other and with their peers.
  • By having all the children communicating in the same manner as a class will encourage the beginning of verbal communication between all the students, verbal, non-verbal and ELL. Group collaboration will help students in forming friendships and engaging in better communication skills, as well as practicing using their manners at the table and in the classroom.

These are only a few teaching tips for building communication and vocabulary skills for non-verbal and ELL students in mainstream and self-contained classrooms. Teaching strategies that increase verbal capacity for non-verbal and ELL students will undoubtedly become effective tools for all students learning how to communicate and build vocabulary in a safe learning environment.

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