Monday, October 18, 2010

Conversation vs. Quiz

When I was in my undergraduate practicum I had to wonderful opportunity to spend some time observing a teacher named Subha.  One of the things that impressed me about her classroom was that it immersed her students in communication; symbols were everywhere, they hung by subject on a pegboard that filled an entire wall, and labeled every item and every student used a communication book with direct select or partner assisted scanning.  (Dynamic Display Devices with options our students needed were just on the horizon.) On each communicate book there was a large message which read:

My name is ________________.  I am ______ years old.
I use this book to talk.  You can help me by __________.
Please DO NOT QUIZ ME by asking me where things are or to find certain messages.

In the years since I have tried to never, ever confuse conversation with twenty questions or a multiple choice quiz.  I make sure my students have a way to say something along the lines of, "I get really sick of people asking me boring questions all the time!  How about we just chat?"

That has mean some creative activities like adapted games, dramatic impressions of me developing aphasia and needing assistance thinking of a word (this is becoming less acting and more real with every passing year) and lots of meeting new people in the school and community to practice finding vocabulary.  It takes lots of practice on the part of the communication partner to stop just asking and instead converse with an AAC user.  It means saying things like, "I really love cereal in the morning.  What breakfast foods do you like?", instead of, "Where's the breakfast foods?" or "How do you feel when you see that cute boy you like?" instead of, "Find happy." 

One of the best ways to do this is for both communication partners to use the (of if possible two of the same) AAC books or devices.  We all know the fancy words for this, "Aided Language Stimulation" and "Modeling", but mostly it can be really fun.  Plus, you find out pretty quickly what is missing and how difficult a device is to use when you yourself are using the device.

Just this week I was working with a student at his home.  He is learning how to use Proloquo2Go on an iPod Touch.  I pulled out my iPhone and matched the settings on his iPod Touch.  At first we chatted, then we started racing each other to find words and finally we took turns describing the pictures the other made using an iPad.  We both had a great time and family members wanted in on the action.  I doubt he would have even sat at the table with me if I had quizzed him rote style on the vocabulary on his device.

Using this fun and functional way of working with emerging communicators using AAC means that my students usually enjoy using their AAC books or devices.  When AAC is conversation and not a quiz students think of the communication system as a voice and not work.


  1. What a great post, Kate! A simple reminder that the goal is communication NOT rote memorization. I'm going to pass this along to many people. :-)

  2. Fantastic post! I think that we can tell people this, but your post really made the point very clear. I am also going to pass this along. Thanks!

  3. You rock. Have to share this. A great reminder even for those of us who think we aren't quizzing - we probably are!

  4. I am a fourth year psychology graduate student and I am conducting a survey to determine what obstacles public high school special education teachers are encountering concerning teaching sexuality education. This project is a social justice piece and any help would be much appreciated. Please feel free to forward this link to any public high school special education teachers that you think might be willing to help. Thank you for your time.


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