Portrait of a Learner 4-8

Systems Change


Factor Connections

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Communication is the expression of thoughts, ideas, and emotions, and the ability to understand others' thoughts and feelings. Language serves as a key medium for Communication including oral language skills, signed language, reading and writing skills, gestures, and listening skills. Communication also involves communicating with numbers, drawings, technology, etc., and being able to use multiple modes of Communication or multiple languages to express ideas. Multimodal forms of Communication (like gestures, drawing, or technology) and bilingual code-mixing (supplementing one language with another, especially when students have non-overlapping vocabularies across languages), can extend students' thinking, encourage self-expression, perspective taking, and awareness, and can better allow others to engage in shared ideas and expressions. Although much of language development occurs in the early years, there are still many developmental changes that occur into middle childhood and adolescence.

Main Ideas

Communication consists of both expression of ideas and reception of ideas—or listening and understanding. To be an effective communicator, it is important to understand that other people have different experiences, knowledge, and perspectives. It is helpful to be aware that many young learners, including many multilingual learners may have stronger listening/receptive skills as they develop their expressive vocabulary and may demonstrate their understanding through non-verbal means, such as gestures, drawings, etc.

Language, including verbal and non-verbal forms of communication, can be used to support thinking and reasoning for speaking and non-speaking learners. For instance, labels can help us think abstractly which supports higher order thinking, reasoning about numbers, and encoding. In addition, research suggests that the act of explaining your thinking supports learning. Language also plays a critical role in enabling us to express our thoughts and emotions, regulating our emotions, as well as allowing us to engage with others' feelings. In early adolescence, as social worlds increasingly include peers, learners' Communication with peers, both in person and through technology, increases as well. In addition, with development learners continue to internalize social expectations around language use, including longer conversations, perspective taking, turn taking, and generally develop a more complex use and understanding of spoken and written language.

Communication is how we share our culture, connecting the present with the past through traditions such as writing, oral traditions, music, and dance. Understanding and respecting diverse cultures and languages, and learning how to communicate across this diversity, is a central aspect of Communication skills. Use of different languages over time may lead learners to direct their attention to different aspects of the world based on how their language system works. Therefore supporting multilingual language use can support learners in drawing upon different domains of knowledge. . Valuing students' linguistic differences, including supporting their use of their Primary Language (including, e.g., African American English), or recognizing and normalizing the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) such as assistive technology, translation technology, or no-tech and low-tech options, such as picture exchange communication, can allow them to confidently express themselves and maintain and share a core aspect of their culture and Identity.

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