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Strategies: Communication

Below are a series of suggestions for making the process of communicating with your student easier for both of you:

  • Simplify your language by using short and simple sentences when speaking to a student for whom English is a new language.
  • Do not assume that the child is understanding what you say. Accompany your words with pictures, gestures, and movements that will help to convey your meaning.
  • Do not ask too many questions at first. Remember that the student will not understand everything you say and that he or she may nod his or her head just to please you.
  • Do not force the child to make eye-contact with you. Prolonged eye-contact between a child and an adult may be interpreted as disrespectful in some cultures.
  • Slow down when you speak with your student.
  • Do not raise your volume when speaking. Loudness does not compensate for lack of understanding, and may be interpreted as anger towards the student.
  • Accept a student's initial silence as a natural stage of development.
  • Do not force your student to speak, especially in front of other children or adults.
  • Do not cajole your student with expressions such as: " I know you know the name of this, "or "I'm waiting for you to say something."
  • Do not "over-celebrate" the student's first efforts at English. "Good, Kim," or "That's great language, Juan," will suffice.
  • Do not correct the student's errors when she or he attempts to speak English. Instead, model the correct form in your response.
  • For example: If the student says:

     "I like that car, she is so fast!"

    You may respond: "Yes, it is fast."

  • If you do ask questions, incorporate the answer into the question, or give the student choices so as to give a child a base to work from.

    Instead of asking: "Whose shoes are these?" ask: "Are these shoes the children's shoes, or the teacher's shoes?" The child can then use your own language in his/her response.

  • Allow plenty of time for the child to answer a question or wait a bit and then re-phrase the question in simpler language. Don't jump in with the answer. Remember, when answering a question, your student first must be sure to understand the English words you have used, then he or she must figure out a response to your question, and then she or he must remember the English way of saying that response. Keeping these steps in mind will help you to allow your student plenty of time for considering and responding to your questions.