Main Navigation Links Below Home Competency Areas Resources and Tools Site Map

Paraprofessional Consortium Logo

Area C: Modeling for Paraprofessionals

Activities and Discussion Questions

Activity #1:

Discuss "active listening" and have the participants prepare an outline of what they might do with paraprofessionals to explain this concept. For example:

Instructions for paraprofessional activity -

  • Provide a definition of Active Listening.

  • Discuss what it looks like (body language) and sounds like. Extend the discussion to expected outcomes when applying active listening techniques during student, parent or staff person interactions. People appreciate when another person listens to their issues and demonstrates empathy toward their situation.

  • Facilitate a brain storming activity. Ask the paraprofessional(s) to generate as many ways as possible to say, "What I hear you saying is . . ."

  • Review the phrases and explain how variety in use of stock phrases is important when conveying true sincerity and concern.

Activity #2:

Discuss "body language" and have the participants prepare an outline of what they might do with paraprofessionals to explain this concept. For example:

Instructions for paraprofessional activity -

Talk about body language and the importance of nonverbal communication. Role play situations or practice positions to demonstrate non-verbal messages. Here is a list of POSSIBLE meaning for certain body language. Please remind paraprofessionals that these are just possibilities and they may be completely wrong in some situations. They only serve as examples here.

Eyes-   Rubbing eyes may indicate a lack of comprehension
    Direct eye contact - credibility and trust
    Glancing quickly from face to face may indicate mistrust
    Occasional blinking: concentration
    One raised eyebrow: suspicion
    A wink: teasing or flirting
Hands-   Open, visible: signify poise and willingness to listen
    Folded or out of sight: mistrust and tension
    Unrestricted movements: self-confidence
    Uncontrolled movements: anger
    Rubbing: hopeful expectation
    Steepling (fingertips touching): suspicion
Head-   Held high: self-confidence
    Held low: submission
Smiles-   True: lips full and teeth bore
    Fake: eyes narrow and teeth covered
    Excessive smiling: untruthfulness
Torso-   Leaning toward a person: comfort or showing interest
    A backward lean: fear, awkwardness

Discuss other body mannerisms used by students to convey a message.

Activity #3:

Discuss SLANT and have the participants discuss how they might teach this strategy to paraprofessionals. For example:

Instructions for paraprofessional activity -

Teach the paraprofessional the SLANT acronym for demonstrating active listening and learning. This is also a great technique to teach students:

S = Sit up straight

L = Lean forward

A = Act interested or Ask questions

N = Nod

T = Take notes or Take notice

Model this technique when communicating with staff, parents, and students.

Activity #4:

Discuss "confidentiality" and have the participants prepare an outline of what they might do with paraprofessionals to explain this concept. For example:

Instructions for paraprofessional activity -

  1. Discuss the role of the paraprofessional as an ambassador of the school district. He/she will have to be very careful when asked questions about school situations. Since many parents and community members know the paraprofessional has access to information regarding students and their activities, parents and others may ask for details, insights or opinions regarding certain student behaviors or activities.

  2. Stress the importance of not sharing information and why this is so important.

  3. Ask the paraprofessional to list strategies used to deflect personal questions when he/she does not wish to answer the question posed.

  4. Discuss typical ways to defer answering and discuss how to handle questions about school and students.

  5. Encourage the paraprofessional to practice saying,
  6. I'm sorry, but school confidentiality policies do not allow me to talk about that. Please see the teacher (IEP Manager) or school principal for that information.

  7. Find a way that is both comfortable and within confidentiality guidelines to defer answering.

  8. On a note card, present the paraprofessional with a typical scenario in which a parent or school staff person has posed a question presenting a difficult situation.


  1. A teacher approaches you in the hall (between classes) and in a loud voice begins to tell you what         did in class today.
  2. An administrator from another building asks you about a student in your class.
  3. A parent asks you for information about the behavior of a student who is known to be "deeply troubled". She expresses concern for the safety of her child and wants to know more.
  4. While in the teacher's lounge, you hear two teachers discussing details of a staffing attended earlier in the day. They are talking about the student's medication and the attitude of the mother towards the school. You are uncomfortable with these comments as the student and mother are relatives of yours.
  5. While at the grocery store, a parent asks you how her child is doing in school.
  1. Discuss possible reactions and responses which could re-direct the action or question posed in each scenario. Lead the discussion towards actions that promote confidentiality.

  2. Ask the paraprofessional about any experiences they have already encountered.