Communication is an important skill for every modern student to master. Advances in digital media, changing career landscapes, and greater competition in colleges and workplaces makes improving student communication skills a must. Cramming tips the night before a big interview won’t do the job if students are trying to make an impression in the collaborative workplaces of the future. When it comes to acquiring indispensable communication skills, there’s no time like the present.
Practice these methods to keep the art of conversation alive!
Only a teacher can truly know the joy of walking into a classroom and seeing a group of cherubic faces smiling up at you, eager to learn, hanging on your every word, and never interrupting.
Yeah, right. If you’re a teacher, you know this Utopia is far from reality.
The truth is that listening and speaking are skills that don’t always come naturally to kids.
How to Foster Students’ Communication Skills
How can you incorporate teaching, speaking, and listening while still having time to get in everything else you have to teach? Read on for some great tips to help your students become fabulous communicators!
These 10 tips can help you immensely with improving student communication skills. They can be adapted for most every kind of student from kindergarten to high school. Build better speakers and writers of tomorrow by challenging your students to think critically, listen actively, and work together.
1. Watch films that model conversation skills.
Conversation is one of the most basic and essential communication skills. It enables people to share thoughts, opinions, and ideas, and receive them in turn. Although it may appear simple on the surface, effective conversations include a give-and-take exchange that consists of elements such as:
- body language
- eye contact
Your students can learn the foundational elements of conversation by watching films or videos of these interactions taking place. Pause the video and ask questions such as, “What message is the listener sending by crossing his arms? What else can you tell by observing the expressions and body language of both people in the conversation?”
2. Use technology.
From audiobooks to apps, there is a multitude of technological resources you can use for improving student communication skills. Students can listen to or read along with audiobooks to hear how the speaker pronounces and enunciates different words or phrases. Some great free apps that improve student communication skills are VoiceThread (which is suitable for kindergartners through adults) and Paper Telephone.
3. Reinforce active listening.
Communication isn’t just about speaking; it’s also about listening. Teachers can help their students develop listening skills by reading a selection of text aloud, and then having the class discuss and reflect on the content.
Active listening also means listening to understand rather than reply. Reinforce building good listening skills by encouraging students to practice asking clarifying questions to fully understand the speaker’s intended message.
4. Offer group presentations and assignments.
Team-building exercises can also help students sharpen both oral and written communication skills. Not only does it offer students the chance to work in small groups, thereby reducing some of the pressure, but it also gives them the opportunity to debate their opinions, take turns, and work together towards a common goal.
5. Ask open-ended questions.
Because they require more than a one- or two-word response, open-ended questions are vital for inspiring discussion and demonstrating that there are multiple ways to perceive and answer a question. You might set a timer for short informal conversations and challenge students to use open-ended questions.
For example, you might show children the difference in how much more information they can obtain by asking “what did you like best about the song?” rather than simply “did you like the song?”
6. Use tasks and activities that foster critical thinking.
Another task-based method for improving student communication skills is through critical thinking exercises. These can be done verbally or through written assignments that give students the chance to answer questions creatively using their own words and expressions.
Get a head start with the communication-based critical thinking activities and games in our most popular resource, the Critical Thinking Companion.
7. Offer reflective learning opportunities.
Recording students reading selected text or videotaping group presentations is an excellent method for assessing their communication strengths and weaknesses. Students can reflect on their oral performance in small groups. Then, ask each student to critique the others so that they can get used to receiving constructive criticism.
8. Find teachable moments.
Whatever the age group you are working with, maximize on the everyday happenings in the classroom environment. For example, if a student answers a question in a complicated way, you might ask that they rephrase what they said, or challenge the class to ask clarifying questions. If an unfamiliar word pops up in a text or on a film, pause in order for the class to search for the word in the dictionary.
9. Practice Speaking and Listening in Natural Settings
While speaking and listening are vital in the classroom, they are useful in all areas of students’ lives. Start by having students talk about their interests, then role play situations they might encounter, such as an argument with a friend or how to respectfully disagree with someone in a position of authority.
10. Turn Taking
One of the most basic building blocks of a good conversation is learning to take turns. Mendler suggests: “Use an object, such as a talking stick as a signal for turn-taking. Teach your students that when they have the object, it is their turn to talk or pass while others are expected to listen.” It is a good idea to involve students in other activities that practice the skill of turn-taking, such as board games.
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