Simplify Classroom Language

Simplify Classroom Language: The language of the classroom can swirl about a student with receptive language or working memory difficulties .

With the, at times, loud and noisy environment of a classroom children with language impairment can lose their way if the teacher's message is unclear or too complex to understand.

However, classroom teachers who simplify their language give students a much better chance of understanding the intended message, which can foster better teacher-student communication.

Communication Tips

Monitor your speech rate.

Students with language difficulty have trouble listening to and interpreting a fast rate of speech. If you pay attention to your speech rate and lower it, particularly when communicating a complex concept or theme, it will help your students to understand your message.

Shorten your message.

A shorter message is easier to understand than a longer message. If you use long sentences, packed with information, it's a fair bet that some of your students won't understand all of the information. An example of a long sentence is "Get out your red science book and write your name in the top right hand corner, and then write the title of your science project in the box marked heading."

Clearly there is a large amount of information to process in the above sentence. For this type of sentence it may be best to shorten it to bite sized chunks, such as "Get out your red science books. (Pause) Write your name in the top right hand corner. The top right hand corner. (Pause) Ok, when you've done that I want you to also write the title of your science project in the box that is marked heading."

Use simple sentences.

Oral sentences with a simple structure are much easier to understand than sentences with complex subordinate clause structures. Complex sentences require a lot more processing power than simple sentences, so must be used with caution. Even students with typically developing language skills may have trouble with this sentence, "Before you can go to lunch, I want the students from the red team who made the blue tower and the green team who made the steel bridge to write their results on the board."

The above sentence has a compound-complex structure. A student with processing difficulties would be quickly overwhelmed by the complexity of the message and may fail to comprehend large parts of it. A good way to simplify classroom language is to use short, sharp sentences that don't have long strings of subordinate clauses.

Repeat key messages.

This is self evident. To ensure that your students understand your message it is often important to repeat key sentences and phrases, and to paraphrase your comments.

Pay attention to your body language.

I think it is something like 70% of communication is non-verbal. Body language is an often overlooked means of effectively communicating verbal messages. Being aware of your own body language helps to simplify classroom language. Some good body language tips include:

  • make good eye contact with the whole class

  • Use hand and body gestures to help communicate your message

  • Use pause

  • Use vocal variety and a warm tone to communicate your message.


Gathercole, S.E. & Alloway, T.P. (2008) Working Memory and Learning: A Practical Guide for Teachers Sage Publications, Ltd

Paul, R. (2006) Language Disoders from Infancy through Adolescence. Assessment and Intervention. Mosby

Content Last Updated 8/11

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