The Three Modes of Communication—An Overview

The lessons in the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum give students an opportunity to interact in all three modes of communication—interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. The three modes of communication describe how learners use and interact with language in real-world contexts. Here, we present a brief overview of these modes and the types of activities in our curriculum that engage them.

In Interpretive Communication students comprehend written, oral, or visual communication on a variety of topics without any active negotiation of meaning. In the Sonrisas Spanish curriculum students engage in this mode by listening to stories, reading brief text excerpts and viewing images in various activities, and reading instructions for portfolio activities.

In Interpersonal Communication students engage in two-way oral or written communication with active negotiation of meaning to share information, feelings, and opinions. This is the meat of the Sonrisas lessons. In every segment—Circle Time, Story Time, Art Time, and Partner Time—students have the opportunity to engage in interpersonal communication with the teacher and their classmates. Students engage in this mode by singing songs, playing games, doing lesson activities, engaging in shared reading, conversing about art projects, and completing Partner Time activities.

In Presentational Communication students present spoken or written information that is prepared for an audience. In the Sonrisas lessons students present completed art projects, they share information from Partner Time activities, and they present written work from portfolio activities.

Obviously, beginner students are not going to be able to read long texts, engage in complex conversations, or present large amounts of information. The activities in the Sonrisas lessons are designed so that students are taught language concepts that enable them to interact in the three modes at an age-appropriate level. Through routine, repetition, and spiraling of content, students develop their Spanish so that they are able to communicate effectively in order to function in a variety of age-appropriate situations and for multiple purposes.

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