Barrier tasks are flexible activities that help kids and adults learning English as a second language, and/or with communication disorders, to demonstrate functional skills requiring clear communication. Barrier tasks can be used for a variety of purposes including helping people learn to speak more clearly, to understand and use language content (e.g. vocabulary, attributes, and categories), understand and use language structures (e.g. morphemes like plurals or possessives, different sentence structures, and following multistep and other complex instructions), and improve their social use of language (e.g. through scaffolded conversations, sequences, and stories).
A barrier activity uses a screen or “barrier” between the speaker and the listener. The barrier can be as simple as a book or folder; or as elaborate as a wall or magnet board. Whatever you use, make sure your barrier prevents the speaker and listener from seeing each other’s work.
Barrier tasks create a need for the speaker to impart clear, relevant messages; and for the listener to listen carefully and to ask for clarification when needed. Barriers can also constrain listeners and speakers by preventing them from using writing, gesture and/or drawing to clarify messages. Constraints like these force speakers and listeners to use – and to practice – their oral language and listening skills; and to develop their theory of mind by learning to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
In this 13-page low-prep pack, the barrier stimulus worksheets are designed to help participants develop their Basic English core vocabulary of verbs. Designed for people learning English as a Second Language, and for children with developmental language disorders, the words depicted in the Barrier Games have been selected from the New General Service List-Spoken 1.2, a list of 721 words accounting for up to 90% of spoken English (Browne & Culligan, 2017, NGSL-S1.2).
Principal sources: (1) Ratcliff, A., & Little, M. (1996). A conversation based barrier task approach to teach sight-word vocabulary to a young augmentative communication system user. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 138. (2) Goral, M. & Kempler, M. (2009). Training verb production in communicative context: Evidence from a person with chronic non-fluent aphasia. Aphasiology, 23(12), 1383.