This year one student in my class has selective mutism. This is completely new to me, I've never known a child with selective mutism before, much less taught one. As a result, I've done a lot of research in the last couple of months, reading online and perusing some resources passed on to me by our school's social worker. It is fascinating to me and I am learning a ton.
That said, some of what I'm learning is what I'm noticing and reflecting about in my classroom. My biggest epiphany has come as I've tried to plan instruction. I have no sense of what this student knows, is able to do, or is thinking. I realize how much I rely on listening to students as assessment.
We've found a variety of ways for this child to participate: writing a letter or number on a small whiteboard as part of games and activities, indicating a choice from a few options using sign language letters, thumbs up or thumbs down. These strategies are immensely helpful and I'm grateful they are working.
They aren't, however, giving me any deep insight into what this child does and doesn't understand or has or has not learned. Without being able to hear this child's thinking I can't identify misconceptions or recognize when something has been mastered.
Most of what I know and understand about my students has come from listening to them. I never truly understood this.