Maximizing the Use of Materials

Given that I typically see my language students 30-60 minutes per week, I like to maximize the number of goals we work on in each session by having my materials work double-duty.  A good example is combining expressive and receptive skills in the same activity.  I can accomplish this using an “oldie but goodie” book from Great Ideas for Teaching called “Processing Auditory Messages Exactly and Totally.”  This book is filled with complex b/w scenes that can be photocopied for each student, and two levels of directions.  The lower level is very straightforward:  “color the monkey’s eyes blue,” for instance.  Level two requires more processing:  “One animal is holding a musical instrument.  His hat should be green.”

Obviously, this book is made for following directions.  When I write goals for my K-2 students who have auditory processing, attention, and /or receptive language deficits, I write them in a way that gives me very good information (and data) on exactly where the students are successful and where they are breaking down when following two-part directions.  For example:

“After hearing a 2-part direction only once, S. will act on the named element on a paper/pencil task.”

“After hearing a 2-part direction only once, S. will perform the named action on a paper/pencil task.”

In other words, if I give the student the direction to “draw a blue circle around the biggest dinosaur,” I will measure (1) if he did SOMETHING to the biggest dinosaur (named element) and (2) if he drew a blue circle around something (named action).  A red circle around the biggest dinosaur will get the student one point for named element but no points for named action.  A blue circle around the smallest dinosaur will get the student a point for the named action, but no points for the named element.  This really helps me to see if the student is only processing the first or last part of the direction, and if he doesn’t understand the vocabulary/concepts related to the element or the action.  For some students, I will write the goal “with no more than one repetition of the direction,” for others, “with no repetitions” or “after hearing the direction only once.”

So, clearly, this book is very useful for rehearsing following verbal directions.  But those same scenes can be used for much more…

Expressively language:  Before we begin the receptive part of the lesson, we first talk about the scene.  “What do you see?” I ask, opening up the lesson to exploring vocabulary (can they name the animals and items in the scene?), context knowledge (can they look at the whole scene and figure out the location or theme?), grammar (can they use a grammatical sentence to describe the action, position, and/or possession of each character in the scene?), and storytelling (can they make up a story about the scene, including some predictions, what some of the characters might say or think, etc.).

Articulation and fluency:  While vocabulary and grammar might be goals for some in the group, others can participate in the same expressive language tasks mentioned above, but their focus will be on using correct articulation or smooth speech.

This expands the goals I’m measuring and involves all students in a mixed group in the skills they need.  An added advantage of opening the lesson with these expressive activities is that the student will become familiar with the scene, both visually and with the related vocabulary, so when we move to the following directions activity, I can be relatively sure that errors in receptive performance are due to processing/attention problems and not due to visual scanning and/or unfamiliarity with the vocabulary pictured.

If you are looking to pack a lot of punch into a 30 minute session, this is just one way in which a single piece of paper can provide rehearsal of and data for 2 following-directions goals, plus goals for vocabulary, grammar, storytelling, articulation, and/or fluency.

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