Practical tools, activities, and resources
to guide instruction

Instruction - Communication

Activities By Proficiency Level

For students at lower proficiency levels (SPLs 0–3), communication skills can be improved by working with the basic building blocks of language (nouns, verbs, pronouns, referents), providing models of fluent speech, practicing pronunciation, and teaching simple communication strategies. For example, have students do the following:

  • Practice the pronunciation and spelling of basic vocabulary words
  • Distinguish between the intonation of questions and the intonation of responses
  • Read and perform simple model dialogues with familiar vocabulary
  • Practice simple ways of pausing and asking for a moment to think before responding to a question (e.g., “One minute please. Let me think… OK…”)
  • Drill new vocabulary within sentence frames by substituting one word in each sentence (e.g., “Please help me with this customer [machine, task, bag]”).
  • Match pronouns and possessive adjectives to avoid confusion in relaying information (e.g., “I drive my car to work,” “He uses his hammer”).
  • Practice words with similar initial sounds, middle sounds, and final sounds
  • Use minimal pairs to practice the difference between vowel sounds (pen/pan) and consonant sounds (hat/had)
  • Identify syllables and syllable stress using the Total Physical Response method (i.e., clapping, tapping, stretching, standing, etc.).

For students at higher proficiency levels (SPLs 4–8), communication skills can be built by working to convey meaning through the use of cohesive markers, intonation, background information, tense/aspect, precise vocabulary, and monitoring/repairing comprehension on the part of the listener. For example, have students do the following:

  • Self-monitor rate of speech and cues from the listener to determine if they are understood
  • Use repair strategies when meaning is not clearly communicated (e.g., say in a different way, spell/write/draw the meaning, give another example)
  • Practice stress and intonation at the syllable, word, phrase, and sentence levels to emphasize important information or meaning
  • Combine words into meaningful chunks (e.g., “Whuddya doin?” for “What are you doing?”), and pause between phrases
  • Practice reduced speech (e.g., “Wanna go to the store?” for “Do you want to go to the store?”)
  • Sequence and organize thoughts in logical order, using transition words as appropriate
  • Practice with different tones and registers for appropriate audiences and contexts
  • Frame ideas with phrases meant to draw in the listener (e.g., “In my experience…” or “That’s an interesting question. I think…”

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