Teaching communication skills is one of the most important things you can do to help your students learn to read, write and express themselves verbally. Often when we think of oral language development, we think about babies and very young learners like those in preschool. While a good majority of language development DOES occur at this age, there is so much more for students to learn as they learn to be effective communicators.
Good communication skills are a prerequisite to most jobs and that won’t change as life changes. People admire effective communicators. Our students can be just that but we need to teach them how. If you Google “children communicating” you will see images of children whispering in each other’s ears. You will see kids using the old can with a string thing that creates a “telephone”. How did this get to represent communicating?
This blog post will talk about the benefits of teaching students effective communication skills and 5 simple ways to start to do that in your classroom tomorrow.
The benefits of having students become communication superstars is enormous!
When students communicate they become problem solvers. They will learn to listen and take on other’s perspectives. This helps them to understand the other person and contributes to the development of compassion.
Here are FIVE ways that teachers can HELP their students become effective communicators.
1. Teach your students early in the year some basic communication skills. (It’s never too late to start!) Teaching students that there are verbal and non verbal methods of communication very early on will help your students become more self aware and award of others. The non verbal ones are often the most important in the early stages as they are the most misunderstood. Recognizing them helps students to build confidence and awareness. Sometimes writing thoughts and feelings can help us then speak about them later. This is why when my students do journal writing, I like to have them write about mindful things and things of their choice.
2. Model effective communication skills by speaking in clear, full sentences and expecting the same from your students. (Not only does this help your students to speak more clearly but it more often than not, transfers into full sentences when they write.) Practice eye contact with your students in small groups. Modelling is powerful.
3. Value speaking by providing a lot of opportunities in the day for students to work in partners and small groups. Sharing projects created or art work is often an easier way to get students talking.
4. Provide lessons in which students discuss topics or answer comprehension questions by discussing them in groups instead of having to write out their answers. This can be done after a shared reading lesson, as part of literature circles, or as a mini debate. Debates can be done with younger children at the 2nd and 3rd grade levels too while they learn about persuasive/opinion writing. Group projects where everyone has a piece of the project can be very powerful if they are structured so everyone has a part and the final piece involves everyone. Creating and making involves a lot of discussion. If the topic is interesting, kids will like to talk on topic.
5. Use technology to allow students an avenue that they might be more comfortable with but with an added communication aspect. Try programs like Book Creator or Explain Everything. Take the initial learning outside for maximum engagement!
When students are explicitly taught effective communication strategies and they get regular practice daily, they become more confident, self assured and responsible. These skills trickle over into self assessment and writing and into interactions they have in the classroom and on the playground. Front loading your students with these skills helps them to have a positive year in the classroom.
If you would like to read more about empowering students, check out this post on Teaching Kids to Think.