The techniques I am sharing with you derived from my attempt to use PODD communication books based on the work of Gayle Porter and Linda Burkhart. If you are unfamiliar, PODD stands for Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display. Here are two sites you can visit for more information on PODD: Novita Children's Services and Linda J. Burkhart's website.You can also watch amazing footage of their clients using PODD communication books on YouTube.
I attended a workshop by Linda Burkhart and loved the technique. If you ever get a chance to go to one of Linda’s trainings... JUMP AT IT! It will give you a whole new perspective on augmentative communication and the importance of language. After returning from the training, I couldn't wait to get started with the PODD books. Although I had the best intentions, it was difficult for me to implement the technique because of everything else that goes on in the classroom.
I feel the books are extremely beneficial and will continue to work on my implementation style but in the meantime I really needed some simple words for my staff and students to get started with so I came up with a core word page. My staff and I keep them in our aprons for easy access.
Here is a video clip of my son and I modeling how to use it. We shared these video models one at a time during large group for a few weeks when we first started using the board.
They prove to be very helpful and by last December, we realized that the kids needed more words so I created this mini language book.
|Page 1: Core Word Page w/ a Few Additions|
|Page 2: Manner & Action Words|
|Page 3: Greetings & Feelings|
Page 4: Pictures of staff & students (Not pictured here.)
|Page 5: Personal Hygiene (Toileting & Snack in Our Classroom.)|
Here is a clip of my sons and I modeling the use of the mini book. NOTE: My older son has had a little experience with the book and is starting to become a reader while my younger son has not seen it before. Therefore, it is more of a model of language for my two-year old. The game featured in the video is Design and Drill.
That video brings up a good point. Some games, books, and activities we do in the classroom require different words than the ones in the mini book. In those instances, we create an activity specific board. Here is and activity specific board for a game we play around Easter.
Here is a book example. The book is Baby Foods by Saxon Freymann and Joost Elffers. It is one of our favorites. By having the PODD available the kids can tell us what animals they see and what fruits and vegetables the animals are made out of.
Teacher's Organizational Tip: Recently, I started a binder of aided language boards for our children’s book collection.
I keep each board in a page protector inside the binder. Then, I have the binder available for staff at the literacy center. As my staff and I need a board for a specific book, we can simply pull it out. It is definitely a work in progress because I make the boards as books come up in our lesson plans. Hopefully by the end of the year, I will have a vast collection of them!☺
I also keep the activity specific boards in page protectors and store them with the activities in my thematic tubs. (My thematic tubs are a whole other topic...maybe we will open that can of worms at a later date!)
After seeing how activity specific language boards impacted our students, I realized I should make center specific boards. Instead of laminating them or putting them in page protectors, I place them in 5X7 plastic frames so they can easily set on a table top for frequent use. They are always out and available as I velcro them to the furniture in each center when they are not being used. As a result, the students have access to them for communication at all times.
If you have Boardmaker, you can download these from Boardmaker Online and modify to meet your needs, if not check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for a new and improved version that includes extras!
The day after I put the boards up, a student who does not have many words in his vocabulary walked right over to the art center, pointed and said word approximations for “I” “want” “scissors”. Oh, the things that warm a teacher's heart! It was so exciting!!! If the language board was not at easy access, he would have never had the words to request what he wanted. The day he learned that his words have power. Ever since, that is the first thing he does when he arrives in the classroom. He hangs up his book bag and immediately runs to a language board to communicate where he wants to play. Leading me to a great point, if you can strategically place items of interest out of reach or in a way that students have to request your help to use them, they are more likely to use the boards and pick up on their purpose.
For example, one of the first boards our students started using was for our sensory table as it is a highly motivating center and kids can’t open it without our help. They would go to the board and point to “I want open.”
Teacher Tip: Another great feature about the plastic picture frames is you can use vis-a- vis markers to mark off things that are not available for the day or to emphasis something to a student visually.
Before I say so long, I want to share one final discovery that we recently started using in our classroom. We have a student in our classroom with limited verbal and nonverbal communication skills. She is very social but tends to use only one noise to interact. It's a grumbling sound. She has interest in the PODD books that her speech pathologist and I wear, and also the mini language books we use. But we have found she only has access to those words when in close proximity to us. We tried giving the student her own mini book. Unfortunately, she is not functional with it because she does not yet have the skills to navigate it by herself and her fine motor ability inhibits her to turn pages.
As a result, we cut the top of a tube sock off and hot glued words she most frequently would want to communicate.
She wears it as a wrist band and absolutely loves using it to communicate. It is not completely functional yet but we are getting a lot less of the grumbling noise and more pointing to words with some speech sounds attached like “bye-bye” and “a du” for all done. This method really speaks to her!! As we continue to model its use, I think we will start to see even more verbal and nonverbal language attempts. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE UPDATE ON THIS LITTLE GAL'S JOURNEY!
With that, I leave you with one final note that Linda Burkhart shared at her training that really spoke to me. She asked how long do we speak to a typically developing baby before we hear them speak back? Around 12 months, perhaps? Well, that's 12 months of modeling and speaking to them and not getting anything in return. It may take 12 months or even longer (especially for students with cognitive impairments) for you to see significant growth with a student using aided language boards and PODD books.
So I encourage you not to give up. Model! Model! Model! The ability to communicate is a true gift that we take for granted. Being able to give nonverbal students this gift is priceless. It can change a student's whole life. And that, folks, is what keeps this teacher going!