Teachers like to talk! When we lead a lesson, support a student, and give class directions, we tend to use lots and lots of language.

say it in three

Seriously. Lots of language.

The irony is, much of what we are saying in the classroom is not truly being heard! Due to language processing challenges, many students with ASD cannot fully hear, process or completely understand all the verbal information we bombard them with. Dr. Ken Rowe explains the problem of too much teacher language this way:


“There is too much information going through the students’ auditory gate. Either nothing goes through or what goes through is garbled.” (in Doherty 2004)


But everything we have to say is so important! How can we possibly reduce our verbal language?


There are many ways to reduce the amount of language we use in the classroom. One way is to say it in three. Replace your long list of directions with a total of three words. Yes, just 3!


Try this: When giving directions, start by giving your long list of steps as you usually would. Then, repeat your directions, but slightly shorter. Finally, repeat your directions using only the three most important words. For example:


OK, class. Please hang up your coats and put away anything you had at lunch. Then get your writer’s notebook and meet the me at the rug.

(That’s you giving the full directions)


That’s: coats away, writer’s notebook, go to the rug.

(That’s slightly shorter)


Coats – notebook – rug

(That’s it! Three words!)


Think about a funnel: our verbal rich directions get slowly more and more concise until we end by just giving a three-word direction.


Try it out! Look to see if your students follow directions more easily, more quickly, or more completely.


For more information, check out: The Power of Our Words, a terrific book on classroom language from Responsive Classroom.