by Laurie DuBos
As we begin the new school year and think about working with new or returning students, teachers are often considering how they can better encourage students to remember to follow routines, complete tasks, or wait their turn–usually through prompts and classroom visuals. In “The Power of Our Words,” Paula Denton refers to “reminding language,” a strategy that could also help teachers in supporting students and ultimately communicating that “students are competent learners and have good intentions” (p.112). As teachers, we can use reminding language through visual prompts in our classrooms for ourselves–to demonstrate our best teaching intentions towards students.
Most teachers are list-makers, and everyone has their unique method for making their lists. Only you can decide what works best for you in your classroom, but you might want to discuss a mutual strategy that would work with your co-teaching partner as well. Would a post-it on your computer or desk be the best place to remind you to review classroom rules daily or should you place a colorful note on your bulletin board to prompt you to use less language when giving directions. What’s most important is that reminders work for you during your daily teaching.
In “The Power of Words,” there are excellent examples of the language that teachers often use when frustrated, busy, and/or tired, particularly when working with students who have limited attention, impulsive behaviors, or difficulty processing information quickly. An example might be:
“How many times do I have to tell you to stop talking?”
(to listen, to stop doing that, to put that away, etc.)
When you really meant to say: “It’s time to ______ (listen, open your book, etc.).”
Using a photo of a child that reminds you to look for students who are following directions or that prompts you to use brief, more proactive words when starting an activity or lesson is an excellent strategy for teachers to prompt themselves:
Another example of using a visual reminder is when you realize that you are talking too much or repeating yourself at some point in a school day. If you think that this is happening to you, consider asking your co-teacher to tally how many times you are giving a direction, reminding a child about a behavior or activity, or repeating a prompt. This will help you to see whether you are using language strategically to prompt students or does it just sound like you are “nagging” them. With ASD students who have language processing difficulties as well as attention issues, teachers have to be very careful not to get stuck using the same language over and over again or using too much language. If a student does not respond to the first or second prompt that you’ve given, he/she will likely not respond to the fifth or sixth prompt either. Often in these situations, what is needed are fewer words not more.
Finally, we have to remember that language is one of the most powerful tools that have as teachers. As Denton notes in “The Power of Language,” teachers’ words impact how students “think and act, and ultimately how they learn” (p. 1). Teachers’ language, including body language and voice tone, convey respect and trust to a student. So, think about using reminding language that will prompt you in your interactions with students (and humor always helps):
Teacher prompts can be particularly useful as you start the new school year. As a teacher, you know that prompts and reminders help students stay organized, on-task, and independent. Why not consider using the same strategy to support your own teaching?