Including a low verbal or nonverbal student in the classroom brings about unique challenges, but with the right strategies in place everyone in the classroom can overcome said challenges. In a recent interview with The Mobility Resource, Princeton City Schools intervention specialist Melanie Broxterman offered three helpful strategies she learned from her experiences the past 15 years. Broxterman’s current case load serves kindergartners and first graders.
1) Establish the relationship.
When asked what advice she might give general educators regarding working with low verbal or nonverbal students Melanie Broxterman said “I think it’s very important not to forget that they need to be able to feel that (student-teacher) relationship and have that relationship.”
She continued “So even though they may not give you feedback or they may not say hi or whatever, you would want to talk to them like every other kid and greet them.”Broxterman noted a simple act like a greeting or even a pat on the shoulder “Lets them (the students) know you know they’re there and you want to engage them.”
2) Encourage participation.
Engaging students also involves encouraging participation. By sharing examples from her own classroom, Broxterman demonstrates what encouraging participation could entail. For instance she discusses a tactic called errorless choices. “Whenever we do any type of activities those students who I know are not quite ready to make choices, they’re still a part of the group. They get to make those errorless choices.”
Explaining how errorless choices work Broxterman said “Some students may have to choose between three pictures. For a couple of my students we’re still working on getting into the routine of school, sitting, and making some type of choice or participation so they’ll have errorless choices. They’ll just have one to choose from. ‘What was our story about?’ and you’ll only have a picture of a dog so they’ll only choose the right answer. That helps them understand that they’re a part of the group and they still get to make choices.”
3) Use visuals.
The above example also illustrates Broxterman’s third tip. She emphasized “Don’t underestimate the power of visuals.” This she learned when first starting teaching. “I had never realized the power that using those visuals can play for giving directives or for being able to give responses.”
Beyond visuals specifically designed for particular activities, posting general visuals around the classroom proves important. “They may not be verbal but they may be able to point to something in the room or point to the days of the week or make a choice between two colors.”
Essentially visuals hanging around the classroom “give them those choices and give them the opportunities to make choices.” Choices ultimately provide low verbal and nonverbal students a way to communicate.
To learn more about Melanie Broxterman and her teaching methods visit her site.
*Image courtesy Daniel Julià Lundgren (Wikimedia Commons)