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Emily Fox Unit 4 Task 2 – Self reflective account-Communicating with pupils. K1-The importance of giving children your full attention when listening to them. I always try to give pupils my full attention when communicating with them as children can tell when you are distracted and will often give up trying to communicate with adults who do not give them their full attention. Listening properly to a child shows them you are interested in what they are saying, that you value their thoughts and opinions and that you have time for them. Good communication leads to the development of positive relationships. Communication takes place on many different levels and can be verbal or non-verbal, this includes: -facial expressions (a smile, frown, raised eyebrows) and eye contact; -gesture and body language (hugs, beckoning, clapping hands, a shrug, being stiff and ill at ease); -verbal or sign language. This can include a very limited kind of communication, through a personal language that is only understood by people who are close to the child (especially if working with very young children or children with severe learning difficulties). When you first start working with a pupil it is tempting to do a lot of the talking and to expect that the pupil has taken in what you have said. However, always try to remember that effective communication is a two-way process and that some children need time to get their thoughts together and to express themselves. Some pupils are only
capable of understanding short pieces of information at a time. To check they have understood ask them to repeat back to you the information you, or the class teacher, has given. This technique is called ‘perception checking’. Pupils with emotional difficulties are helped by someone providing a ‘listening ear’. This means, when they are talking, give them your full attention and make encouraging gestures such as nodding and smiling. Non-verbal messages from you to the child are often more important than verbal messages. To encourage pupils to talk to you it is important to choose the right phrases. This is called Active Listening. The book ‘An Introduction to Counselling Skills for Special Educational Needs’ by Brenda Mallon, gives the following examples which you should try to follow whenever possible. TYPES
To help the pupil
‘I’d like to help you; are you able to tell me about what is the matter?’
To get the complete
‘Can you tell me more
‘story’ from the pupil
about it?’ ‘Do you mean......?’
To check our meaning ‘From what you are is the same as the
saying, I understand
To encourage the
‘I realise this is
difficult for you but you are doing really
To act as a mirror so
‘You feel that......’ ‘It
the pupil can see
was very hard for you
what is being
communicated To help pupils
‘You felt angry and
feelings To show you
‘I can see you are
feelings behind the words Summarising
To bring together
‘These are the main
the points raised
things you have told me......’ ‘As I see it, your main worry seems to be......’
These skills help you to be a good listener and to help the pupil work through whatever is causing worry or concern. For many children with low self-esteem the praise and reward system has to be more subtle. You need to place more emphasis on the use of body language. A touch on the shoulder, a wink or a thumbs up to show you’ve noticed the quality or effort put into their work can work wonders. I acknowledge them without making it too big a deal and then as their self-esteem develops they may be able to move on to the same praise and reward system used by other pupils.
Body stance is also a factor in communication. I always bend or crouch down to speak to children, to be at their level when working with them. Standing over them can be intimidating and threatening, also defensive body language, such as crossing your arms, can be seen as a barrier. Facial expressions, eye contact, gestures and body stance can also be used to show disapproval. Sometimes a ‘look’ is all that’s needed to discourage unwanted behaviour, especially when the teacher is talking to the class. K2-Why it is important to give all children the opportunity to be heard and how to do this in a group situation. When a small group of children sit round a table they naturally form a social group. Ideally this leads to cooperation and joint learning, but if not handled correctly it can cause conflict and negative comparisons. I find it important to set down expectations for behaviour before I start work with them on task. Depending on the ability of the pupils, you may need to demonstrate and teach the behaviours you need from the group. Some examples are: -follow directions first time; -when one person speaks we all listen; -sit on your chairs properly; -keep the noise level low. When working with a group it is important to have all the pupils engaged in doing the task for as much of the time as possible. You need to give each child attention at intervals during the activity and not spend too much time with one child or the others may get restless.
Always make sure every child in the group gets the chance to contribute to the conversation. You cannot assess a child’s comprehension, or correct any misunderstandings, if they remain silent throughout the task. Ways in which I do this include: -asking the whole group a question and allowing them to discuss it first before giving me an answer; -giving pupils time to gather their thoughts together before answering, this makes them more confident about their reply; -getting the pupils to write their answers down (if able) and then to show me at the same time; -drawing in reticent pupils who are too timid to answer by saying such things as: ‘Sally has a good idea. Tell everyone what you think Sally’. Giving all children a chance to contribute to the lesson promotes higher self-esteem and self-confidence, which in turn leads to higher levels of independence. K3-An outline of how children’s communication skills develop within the age range 0-16 years. Pre-Linguistic Stage. 0-3 months Babies need language experiences from those around them from birth. Babies listen to people’s voices and ‘call out’ for company. They respond to people close around them by ‘babbling and cooing’. They cry with anger to show they are in distress. 3-6 months
Babies become more aware of others and so communicate more. They begin to imitate sounds they hear and react to the tone of someone’s voice. They begin to use vowels, consonants and syllable sounds, e.g. ‘ah’, ‘p’, ‘ee aw’. They begin to laugh and squeal with pleasure. 6-9 months Babble becomes tuneful like the lilt of the language they hear. They begin to understand words like ‘up’ and ‘down’, using gestures like raising their arms to be lifted. The baby repeats sounds. 9-12 months Cooperation develops further, i.e. when adults wave ‘bye bye’, or say ‘show me your shoes’ the babies enjoy pointing and waving. Babies can follow simple instructions, e.g. kiss teddy. Word approximations appear, e.g. mamma, dadda and bye bye. Babies make their voices go up and down just like adults do around them. Within one year babies know about – facial expressions, combined sounds, gestures, shared meanings, persuading, negotiating, cooperating, interest in others, their ideas, their feelings and what they do. Linguistic Stage 12-18 months They can point at and often name parts of their body, objects, people and pictures in books. They echo the last part of what others say (echolalia). One word or sign can have several meanings. For example, Cat = all animals, not just cats. By 18 months the child’s main carers should be able to recognise around 10 words. 18 months-2 years
Vocabulary develops quickly and by 2 years children know around 200 words. They over extend the use of a word, e.g. all animals are called ‘doggie’. They can talk about an absent object when reminded of it, e.g. saying ‘biscuit’ when seeing an empty plate. They use phrases, e.g. ‘doggie-gone’, they call themselves by their name (or their variation of their name). They can follow a simple instruction or request. They want to share songs, conversations, finger rhymes, etc. more and more. 2-3 years Language and the ability to communicate develop extremely rapidly during this period. Children begin to use plurals, pronouns, adjectives, possessives, tenses and sentences. They make what are called virtuous errors in the way they articulate things and in the way they use grammar. They might say ‘two times’ instead of ‘twice’, or say ‘I goed there’ instead of ‘I went there’. They love to ask questions (what? where? and who?). Their thinking goes faster than the pace at which they can say what they want to say, which means they can quickly become frustrated. 3-4 years They begin to ask why, when and how questions as they become more fascinated with the reasons for things and how things work. Pas, present and future tenses are used more often. They can be taught to say their name, age and address. They become more accurate in the way they pronounce words, and begin to use grammar. They take their lead from adults and copy what they say. 4-8 years They can now speak confidently and with more and more fluency. Vocabulary is increasing all the time. They use more methods of
communication such as reading and writing. They can use language creatively and as a social skill. They establish a sense of audience and adapt speech accordingly.
8-16 years They can now use much more complex sentences, and start gaining confidence with expressing ideas, telling jokes, reading and writing. By the end of this period they will experience a major shift from concrete to abstract thinking. Handwriting should be fast and legible. K4-Allowing children time to express themselves. It is important to allow every child the chance to collect their ideas and opinions before asking for a reply, as it increases their confidence and self-esteem. Never allow anyone else to ‘second guess’ what the child may be having difficulty in expressing as this just increases the child’s frustration and makes the situation worse. Sometimes I find it useful to allow children who have trouble expressing their opinions to discuss the question with more confident children. This helps them to decide what they will say. Sometimes you may need to get the ball rolling when pupils are slow to start a discussion by mentioning a relative comment a child made previously and asking them to expand upon it. I find joining in myself and making my own contribution to the discussion gives pupils ideas and time to prepare, also try not to let more enthusiastic pupils to take over the discussion. K5-Why is it important to help children make choices and how to do this. In many schools, including my placement, children are given the chance to practise making choices for themselves by involvement in planning activities which affect them.
If they feel they have some control over what they do then they are far more likely to become engaged with the task. Even a simple choice such as ‘which task shall we do first?’ is helpful because the pupil does not feel passive in the process of learning. This is especially important for pupils experiencing literacy or numeracy difficulties as it is all too easy for them to ‘take a back seat’ and let the assistant do it all for them. When allowing pupils to have an involvement in decision making it is important to ensure they fully understand their options beforehand. K6-The key features of effective communication and the importance of modelling it when interacting with children. Different situations bring about different sorts of language, it takes years for children to learn different ways of talking for formal and informal situations. Understanding this difference is important. If children are around the same adults each day they begin to learn the subtle signs about how people talk to each other in different situations. When interacting with children I always remain calm and consistent. It is also important to put aside any external stresses and worries so as not to confuse the child. The keys to good communication with children include: -giving the child your full attention and showing interest in what they are saying; -using appropriate language, tone and/or method of communication for the child; -being clear and concise in your meaning; -maintaining eye contact with the child;
-using positive body language and gestures; -remaining calm; -modelling the messages you are giving the child; -providing adequate opportunities for every child to participate in communicating with the rest of the class; -responding positively and without criticism; -being patient and giving the child time to speak without interruption; -respecting the child’s opinions and being aware of any major factors which may affect them i.e. religion and culture. K7-The main differences between communicating with adults and communicating with children. Whether communicating with adults or children many of the key factors still apply. The main differences would be the subject matter, vocabulary and tone used. You would probably not need to be as repetitive, or speak as simply, when explaining things to adults. When communicating with other adults in the presence of children always remain aware that the children will copy adult behaviour, positive or negative, and that adults need to be good role models for effective communication. K9-Communication difficulties and how these can be overcome. Communication difficulties may arise for a variety of reasons. These include: -Poor communication. This may be due to information not being passed on or because of a misunderstanding. The best way to deal
with this is to discuss the problem with the pupil, or pupils, involved to establish the cause and to work together to move forward. -Cultural differences. If people come from different cultural background they may well communicate in different ways. This cannot be altered. The only thing you can do is be aware of the situation and try to avoid any conflict. -Different values and ideas. Again, there is not much you can do to change this. Just acknowledge the differences and respect the other’s opinions. -Lack of confidence. Sometimes this can appear in the form of aggression which may seem directed at others personally. However, it is important to remember that this is not always the case. It is more to do with frustration at themselves. You will need to act with sensitivity and show encouragement and support. -Sometimes children may have specific difficulties with communication, such as speech disorders or a hearing impairment. Allow pupils to take their time when answering and, if applicable, consider extra training to learn effective, alternative strategies to use. Additional resources or equipment may also be of help. K12-Organisational policies regarding information exchange. When you work closely with a child there are bound to be times when you hear or see information, e.g. about the child’s home life, which must remain confidential. This does not apply, however, to disclosure of abuse, which is information you have a duty to share with your class teacher, head teacher or SENCO. In the course of your job you may find pupils confiding in you. While you may discuss information with other professionals concerned,
remember that the information you come across in the course of your job is not for discussion or comment with outsiders. Also, as a Teaching Assistant I would not expect to have any parental-staff discussions unless under the guidance of my class, or head, teacher. If approached by a parent never give out any information, even if it concerns their own child. Always remain polite and respectful but direct them to a more senior member of staff. K13-The importance of communicating positively with children. Inspiring confidence and trust. Pupils who have had difficult social histories may feel that they have been ‘let down’ by the important adults in their lives and feel it is hard to trust someone to be consistent, fair and encouraging. A pupil with a low opinion of him or herself, for whatever reason, is going to expect to fail. It is, therefore, vital that you take every opportunity to point out what the pupil is good at and to lead them to expect that they can succeed. For example, when working with a child who has difficulties with spellings, I may say something like: ‘That is a really great piece of work Beth. I can see how hard you have worked and I am really proud of you. If we just make a tiny change to some of your spellings it will be absolutely perfect’. Always make a big deal of the positive points and play down the negative whilst still correcting any mistakes. It may take time but if you have a consistent, positive and fair attitude towards the child, he, or she, will learn to develop selfconfidence and to trust you. Valuing the child. No child can learn effectively when they are not feeling valued. It is a key role of the teaching assistant to value every child. Any child
who is thought of as ‘different’ from other pupils may encounter negative attitudes, particularly if their disability is obvious. Surviving childhood teasing is often dependent on self-esteem, so it is very important that the child feels secure and highly regarded by the important people in their life. Encouraging and giving rewards. Giving the pupil encouragement and praise is a very important part of the role and will contribute in a large part to the development of self-esteem and confidence. Liberal amounts of meaningful praise must be given. Meaningful praise means telling the pupil why you are pleased with them, e.g. it is better to say ‘Gemma, I like they way you have used colour in this picture’, rather than ‘That’s a good picture’. All children respond to rewards if the rewards are motivating and achievable. It is important to ensure the reward is achievable over a short period of time to start with, so that success is encouraged. For younger children particularly, the reward needs to be earned within one day so that it is immediate. Other children may be able to work towards a reward at the end of two or three days, or at the end of a week. You will need to negotiate this with your class teacher so that there is consistency in your approach. K13-The importance of communicating positively with families. School staff need to bear in mind the fact that every family is different and has different needs and traditions. It is also important to remember that the majority of parents want to do their best for their children, even if they are unsure of what the best might be. Parents usually welcome help with trying out some alternative methods of doing things but they will not want to change too much too quickly, or to feel changes forced on them.
It is important not to judge parents, and to respect their good intentions. Almost every parent, however uninterested they may seem on the surface, wants to do the job well. Staff need to recognise this and to work positively with this as a central focus. Concentrating on the good intentions of parents gives them a positive image. Just as children need positive images reflected about themselves, so do parents. The parent is a deeply important person to the child and the relationship between parent and child is always very emotional and emotional relationships can be very unreasonable at times. If the relationship between parents, child and staff is going to develop well, then each needs to trust and respect the other. However, it is important to remember that staff should not try to make friends with parents: this is a professional relationship only. Parents often worry deep down whether the staff like their child. They say things like ‘Has she been good?’ when they probably mean ‘Do you like my child?’ Staff can reassure the parent by what they say, i.e. staying positive, even if the child has been showing unwanted behaviour, by emphasising what the child learnt from the situation, and what improvements were shown. It is important that parents are made aware of any programmes and plans which are being made for their children so that they can be encouraged to support the work of the school at home in whatever way is appropriate. It is important they understand the implications of any difficulty and are helped to be positive in their attitudes and expectations. Parents will want to talk as well as listen and it is important they are given the opportunity to do this. Time will need to be set aside for this, however, so that parents do not try to take the teacher’s
attention when they are involved with the children. Some key points for communication with parents are: -eye contact helps staff to give full attention to the parent; -remember your body language will show how you really feel; -try not to interrupt. Nod and smile instead; -never gossip; -summarise the main points of what has been said to the parent every so often; -if you do not know the answer to something, say so, and tell the parent you will find out for them; -remember that different cultures and religions have different traditions. Touching and certain gestures might be seen as insulting; -if the parent speaks a different language to you, or has a hearing impairment, use visual aids and talk slowly and clearly; -remember that if the parents have a child with a disability they may have to talk with you more often. If the parent has a disability, make sure that when you sit together you are at the same level; -occasionally, parents might become upset and will shout at you. If that happens, do not shout back. Simply talk quietly and calmly and show that you are listening to them.
K14-How children’s ability to communicate can affect their behaviour. Communication, in any form, is the way in which we can pass on our thoughts and feelings to others. If a child has a difficulty with
communication it will affect their relationships with those around them. There are many different factors which may affect the ability to communicate. These include: -Physical factors; -Vocabulary; -Opportunity; -Confidence; -Languages spoken. Physical factors. These may include a speech or hearing impairment, or may be due to more serious special needs, including autistic spectrum disorders. If these children are not given extra help, or their needs are not addressed, it can lead to frustration and anxiety for the child. This could lead to apparent behavioural difficulties and deteriorating social and peer relationships. Vocabulary. If a child does not have the vocabulary to be able to express their feelings it can lead to distress or frustration, at themselves or those around them. Children who cannot express their feelings often have temper tantrums or show other kinds of challenging behaviour. Opportunity. If some pupils are not given the opportunity to communicate with others they will not be as able to develop their skills and confidence and extend their vocabulary, and will, therefore, lead to problems associated with problems in these areas. Confidence. Although natural self-confidence varies from person to person, low self-confidence can be built upon and improved. This is linked to the child feeling valued, respected and being given encouragement. If this is not achieved they will feel unable to
contribute to communicative activities and will, therefore, lead to problems associated with this (see above). Languages spoken. If a child does not understand the language being spoken in class it does not mean that they are unable to communicate. They may need lots of gestures and actions when learning in order to understand, and to be understood by, those speaking in a different language. There is often a period of silence on the part of a child, while he or she listens to all the sounds of the new language, and becomes familiar with them. The adult should understand this and be patient. Children need to feel like that they belong. Being bilingual should not be considered a disadvantage, learning how to be able to communicate in more than one language helps children to learn in a much broader way. Any child who has a difficulty with communication, for whatever reason, may react with ‘bad’ or challenging behaviour. This needs to be understood and addressed in order for the child to develop positive relationships and to understand their own, and other’s, behaviour.