Communication strategies in a first-grade classroom: A collaborative teaching curriculum-based approach

Helen Cronin Buhler, Fordham University


This qualitative study examines the communication proficiencies of 20 first-grade students and their teacher before and after a 10-week Communication Lab (Dodge, 1991) program taught by a Speech-Language Pathologist and the classroom teacher. Communicative competence requires negotiating language effectively and flexibly adapting to various listening and speaking contexts. It also requires instruction and practice. By raising the awareness of how we communicate and the effects the communication system has on understanding, learning, and socialization with peers, the quality of communication and talk for learning can improve for all participants, including the teacher. The two research questions guiding this study were: (1) What communication proficiencies do the children exhibit before and after the planned instructional program? (2) What communication proficiencies does the classroom teacher exhibit before and after the planned instructional program? Data were collected from four sources including naturally occurring videotaped interactions, student interviews, teacher interviews, and teacher log and fieldnotes, The research questions were answered by identifying the communication strategies that the children and their first grade teacher used while engaged in two naturally occurring classroom contexts: student-negotiated (center time) activities and teacher-directed activities (writing and science activities). Two distinct broad categories were identified: nonverbal and verbal communication features. Each category was then subdivided into secondary patterns of encouraging and discouraging communication. Naturally occurring interactions and individual participant interviews were collected before, at midpoint, and after the communication instruction. Findings were compared to determine any changes in strategies over time. The findings of this study revealed that communication instruction with a combination of role-plays and scaffolding by adults and expert peers fostered both communicative and metacommunicative competence in all the participants. Participants who are less adept in communicating with peers demonstrated dramatic changes in both their understanding and use of strategies. An examination of a communication strategies intervention program may help to better understand how children learn to communicate and to increase understanding of what is important in young children's communicative lives.

Subject Area

Communication|Curricula|Teaching|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Buhler, Helen Cronin, "Communication strategies in a first-grade classroom: A collaborative teaching curriculum-based approach" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9975340.