Eliciting language using sabotage

by Emily Humphrey, MSDE, CED

I know what you’re thinking…sabotage?! While the word sabotage is negative in nature, when used to promote language it can be a light and positive tool for professionals. Sabotage is a language strategy where the professional deliberately creates a problem or difficult situation for the student. Now that there’s a problem, the student has an immediate need to use language to make a comment or request. Your student can catch you making a mistake and get a kick out of telling you what to do! In order for sabotage to be lighthearted, try it out in situations where you know your student can be successful. View our latest Quick Tip video for more information on how to use sabotage in your classroom and then leave a comment below to tell us how it went!

Emily Humphrey served as a classroom teacher in the Anabeth and John Weil Early Childhood Center at CID – Central Institute for the Deaf. She currently works as a parent educator in the CID Joanne Parrish Knight Family Center (coaching caregivers of children ages birth to three with hearing loss). Emily organizes and contributes to CID’s blog for professionals.

5 replies
  1. Nidhi
    Nidhi says:

    Hello, Emily.

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I am specifically drawn to your note about using sabotage in situations where students can be successful.

    I am currently student teaching in a 1st grade classroom at a school for the deaf. I initially liked to use sabotage to gauge student understanding of new concepts, and sometimes just to make sure students are paying attention. Students were not used to seeing me lead activities and were reluctant to engage with me, and I found this to be a good way to elicit a response from them. However, there is a big range of language development levels in the class, and I realized that in some instances, using sabotage resulted in students becoming more confused. I cut down the sabotage I included in lessons, but after reading this post, I am excited to try to include instances of sabotage that are more functional rather than conceptual, and that I know all the students to be able to catch. Switching a marker for the glue is something they will all definitely protest! =)

    In general, I find it interesting how having the students correct me has influenced our dynamic, and the way that they interact with me. They are now more comfortable with challenging what I say, which makes for more discussion in class.

    Thanks.

    • Emily Humphrey
      Emily Humphrey says:

      Such thoughtful reflection! A large part of teaching and trying different strategies is reflecting on how and when to use them, which you are clearly doing. Happy teaching!

  2. Ali Fine
    Ali Fine says:

    Hello!

    I absolutely love this idea of sabotage. In my undergrad I studied Early Childhood Education, and this concept is something that commonly came across my classes as a way to elicit language out of young students. In one of my student teaching placements, I worked with preschool aged children with severe and multiple disabilities, most children were nonverbal. While we did not call the term sabotage I did use it all of the time while working with this population. Similar to the video, I remember one instance when the children were completing an art project. I purposely only left certain materials on the table hoping the children would use their developing language to ask for other materials. I recall one child in particular, we were teaching him how to use one word phrases and in this learning situation, we were hoping he would say “glue” and/or “marker.” We were so happy to see that withholding the materials initially, it forced him to ask for what he wanted! The idea of sabotage is definitely something that should be applied across all classrooms of different children with varying abilities.

    Thank you for the insightful post

  3. Ali Fine
    Ali Fine says:

    Hello!

    I absolutely love this idea of sabotage. In my undergrad I studied Early Childhood Education, and this concept is something that commonly came across my classes as a way to elicit language out of young students. In one of my student teaching placements, I worked with preschool aged children with severe and multiple disabilities, most children were nonverbal. While we did not call the term sabotage I did use it all of the time while working with this population. Similar to the video, I remember one instance when the children were completing an art project. I purposely only left certain materials on the table hoping the children would use their developing language to ask for other materials. I recall one child in particular, we were teaching him how to use one word phrases and in this learning situation, we were hoping he would say “glue” and/or “marker.” We were so happy to see that withholding the materials initially, it forced him to ask for what he wanted! The idea of sabotage is definitely something that should be applied across all classrooms of different children with varying abilities.

    Thank you for the insightful post

    • Emily Humphrey
      Emily Humphrey says:

      Thank you for sharing. Sabotoge is a great way to manipulate a need to use language. I can tell your experience was meaningful to you AND your student!

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