Pragmatics refers to the ability to communicate in social situations. These classroom activities will help all children to develop social communication skills

Some children have difficulty in understanding how to use language in a range of different social situations and can make very inappropriate remarks.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: See our most popular resource for those working with children with SEN, the A-Z of Special Needs for Every Teacher — a thesaurus of special needs conditions, activities and a who’s who of specialists.

Children who have difficulties in this area may:

  • have problems with taking turns in a conversation or in games
  • be unable to change the style of conversation to suit the listener
  • be unable to interpret tone of voice in others
  • have difficulty interpreting non-verbal communication (ie. facial expression, gestures)
  • have difficulty keeping to the topic of a conversation
  • have problems with judging the amount of previous knowledge that the listener has when relating information
  • have difficulty understanding other points of view
  • have strengths in specific area of the curriculum
  • have a particular interest or hobby which can sometimes act as a stimulus to learning
  • have a good memory for rote learning.

Activities to develop social communication skills

  1. Role play – adults and other children to model social situations at home, shopping, etc.
  2. Puppets – adults and children to model social situations through puppet plays and stories.
  3. Take part – chidlren with social commujnication difficulties to be encouraged to take an active part in both role play and puppet activities after watching modelled situations.
  4. Tell me – ask the children to talk about personal experiences to the class. Subtle adult questioning should ensure that a child keeps to the topic and gives relevant background information.
  5. Making faces – miming activities, specifically teaching children how to show feelings through facial expression. This could be part of miming scenes from well-known stories (e.g. the three little pigs being frightened of the wolf).
  6. Board games – these involve turn-taking.
  7. Parachute games –these involve collaboration and need to be introduced gradually until the children can work as a team.
  8. Circletime – gives opportunities to develop the ability to listen to other children’s points of view, evenif they have dificulty in understanding them.
  9. Reactions – ask the children to chjoose a reaction, from a choice of three, to a particular social situation. Then talk about the possible consequences of each reaction.
  10. Speech bubbles – using well-known story characters. Read the children a scene from the story and then ask them to write, in the speech bubble, what the character might say at the end of the scene.
  11. Just a minute – ask the children to talk about a particular subject for one minute. This is good practice at keeping to the topic.
  12. Social stories – a well-researched and published approach to help children cope with certain social situations that they find difficult.
  13. Comic strip conversations – a well-researched and published approach to help children cope with making choices in certain social situations.

From  A-Z of Special Needs for Every Teacher by Jacquie Buttriss and Ann Callander