Skip to content
 

Blog post Part of series: Spotlight on SEND: Curriculum Design and Practice

Teacher language: Help or hindrance to classroom learning

Colin Millar MBE, Former Principal, Killard House Special School

Communication between teacher and pupil is vital to pupil learning in the classroom. Usually, the focus is concentrated on the development of a pupil’s communication skills and not those of the teacher. It is often just accepted that teachers know how to talk to their pupils. Drawing on my own experience in the classroom I offer the following guidelines to re-examine teacher language. 

The following points were made during a presentation I gave at the British Curriculum Forum (Spotlight on SEND) conference held on 24 March 2022. These suggestions correlate with recommended practice from ELKLAN language training who offer a range of accredited language training courses with children with speech and language difficulties. ELKLAN was set up by Liz Elks and Henrietta McLachlan, both highly experienced and published speech and language therapists working for Cornwall Healthcare NHS Trust (MacLachlan & Elks, 2012). Drawing on their research and my experiential knowledge I suggest that effective teacher communication is obtained by applying the following rules: 

  • Keep your language short and simple.  
  • Make sure you have the children’s full attention.  
  • Emphasise information-carrying words (for instance, ‘I want you to line up at the door’). 
  • Vocabulary used is already known by the pupils. 
  • Repeat, Rephrase, Recheck. 
  • Reduce background noise.  

The above actions also relate to the 7Cs of effective communication that were first elaborated in 1952 by Scott M. Cutlip and Allen H. Center of the University of Wisconsin. The 7Cs of effective communication are (Cutlip & Center, 1952): 

  1. Clarity – be clear about the purpose of the information being delivered. 
  2. Correctness – it is important that the information and grammar are correct so as not to distract the listener. 
  3. Completeness – give all the information needed to carry out the required action. 
  4. Concreteness – be specific about what is being asked or delivered. 
  5. Conciseness – keep your language short and simple. 
  6. Courteous – show your audience respect and have a clear understanding of their baseline and background. 
  7. Consideration & Coherence – ensure the language is subject logical, and the tone and pace are consistent. 

Table 1 sets out how these elements can then be deployed in the classroom. 


Table 1: Classroom strategies to implement effective communication outcomes 

Classroom strategy 

Communication outcome 

Reduce background noise by calling for the attention of all pupils 

This ensures pupils are alerted to incoming information 

Make sure you have the children’s complete attention 

Before any important verbal information is given, teachers know all the class are looking and listening to them 

Emphasise information-carrying words 

Keywords reach the brain assimilation centres first ensuring active understanding 

Ensure the vocabulary used during instruction is already known by the children 

Ensures no confusion around the words being used 

Slow down the pace of communication 

Prevents misunderstanding  

Repeat, Rephrase, Recheck 

Ensures that information is being processed effectively 

Use visual clues 

Ensures that information is being presented in a multi-sensory fashion 

Pause between instructions 

Ensures clarity in communication and limits instruction misconceptions 

Language between teacher and pupil is crucial to effective understanding. It is hoped that the above guidance can aid communication efficacy in the classroom.