No matter what the future holds for today’s students, one life skill that’s essential for success in any chosen field—and in life—is the ability to communicate clearly, and to exchange ideas in person, online, or in writing.
Why are good communication skills so important?
Communication involves all four domains of literacy—reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Students can gain more from the learning process when they’re able to ask questions and discuss concerns. Verbal communication also helps students socialize and build friendships, which in turn helps the learning process.
In this article, we’ll look at some specific ways to help students develop written and verbal communication skills, as well as why it’s healthy for them to do so.
Encourage Hesitant Students to Speak Up and Communicate
Some students may face emotional or physical challenges in learning good communication skills. Many students may be reluctant to speak out in a group setting, or not want to share their thoughts and feelings with classmates.
Also, many children may have speech issues or have difficulty writing. Non-native English speakers may feel uncomfortable speaking. Others may be too shy to speak in front of peers or have difficulty processing conflicting viewpoints.
Fortunately, educators can help reticent students find their voice (whether verbal or written). Following are some class activities and discussions you can use to help children build good communication skills through practice and teacher modeling.
Classroom Activities to Build Verbal Communication Skills
Abraham Lincoln, Malala Yousafzai, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama are all very different people, but all are known for changing the world with their great speaking skills.
Fortunately for most of us, we likely won’t be called upon to change history with our speeches. But verbal communication is an important everyday life skill schools can help children develop.
Communication activities for the classroom don’t have to be as intimidating as standing up in front of everyone and giving a speech. Fun games, like “Telephone” or “Picture storytelling,” or activities like “Show and Tell” help young children learn to communicate with each other.
For younger students, games and activities can help develop verbal and interpersonal communication skills. Some suggested games include “Show and Tell,” and “Turn-taking” (where children gather in a circle and each child takes a turn discussing a topic).
Teachers can help students learn conversational communication by modeling good behavior. Make it a point to have a short conversation with students who struggle conversationally. Show interest in what the student is saying, and include responses and prompts (like “wow,” or “tell me more” or “that’s interesting.”)
Try encouraging children to participate in class discussions and low-stress situations, like talking about a current project or activity. Educators can help students open up by modeling phrases that would be useful in the situation. As they listen, teachers can also show students how to be judgment-free listeners. This is also helpful by modeling for students how to be good listeners to their peers.
Listening is as important as speaking in verbal communication. Establish procedures to encourage good listening and turn-taking. To help with turn-taking, Dr. Allen Mendler recommends using an object a student can hold to represent when it’s their turn to speak and other students’ turn to listen.
Classroom Activities to Build Written Communication Skills
It’s scary to share your thoughts and ideas with others. Educators can help set the stage for successful communication by fostering a safe and inclusive classroom environment. A non-judgmental atmosphere lets students know they’re safe sharing thoughts and asking questions.
One way to let everyone have a chance to practice their communication is by having students start with writing. Journals provide a purposeful activity for students to communicate their thoughts and emotions. Younger students can start by expressing their ideas through drawing and early attempts at writing, and explain those ideas to others.
Classroom activities like reflective writing in journals is a great way to teach communication skills to PreK, elementary, or secondary students. Journals help students practice expressing themselves in writing.
Teachers can then collect the journals and respond to them with questions designed to prod further thinking.
Everyday class assignments and creative writing exercises , like sentence starters, are another effective entry point to teaching written communication. As always, be sure to model good examples in your work for students.
Building Communication Skills in Remote Instruction Students
Most of these activities and suggestions can easily be adapted for remote learning classes.
Google Docs lets students collaborate on assignments online, and a well-moderated discussion board can help students share their thoughts and ideas on classroom topics in writing. Group discussions can be held during Google Meet or Zoom sessions.
The important thing is to make it easy for students to communicate with each other. To help with turn-taking in virtual settings, rather than have the student hold an object, the teacher can unmute the speaker and mute the listeners.
Another way to participate in asynchronous class discussion is with Flipgrid. On this site, teachers can post questions as videos, and students can respond in video form.
1. Hanifran, Olivia. “5 Ways to Establish Effective Communication in the Classroom.” Mentimeter. October 2019. https://www.mentimeter.com/blog/interactive-classrooms/5-ways-to-establish-effective-communication-in-the-classroom
2. Hong, S. . “The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions.” Child Development, 82 (1), (March 2011), pp. 405-32.
3. Edith Cowan University Centre for Learning and Teaching. “Teaching Tips for Communication Skills.” April, 2018. https://intranet.ecu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/771966/teaching-tips-for-communication-skills.pdf
4. NDT Resource Center. “Developing Communication Skills.” https://www.nde-ed.org/TeachingResources/ClassroomTips/communication.htm
5. Watanabe-Crockett, Lee. “5 Quick Ways of Improving Your Learners’ Communication Skills.” Global Digital Citizen Foundation. February, 2019. https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/improving-your-learners-communication-skills
6. Mendler, Allen. “Teaching Your Students How to Have a Conversation.” Edutopia. November, 2013. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/teaching-your-students-conversation-allen-mendler
7. Miller, Kelly. “39 Communication Games and Activities for Kids, Teens, and Students.” PositivePsychology.com. January, 2020. https://positivepsychology.com/communication-activities-adults-students/
8. Stachowiak, Bonni. “How Can Online Instructors Get Students to Talk to Each Other?” EdSurge. January, 2019. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-01-09-how-can-online-instructors-get-students-to-talk-to-each-other
9. Arora, Mahak. “Communication Skills for Kids – Importance and Activities to Improve.” Firstcry Parenting. August, 2018. https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/communication-skills-for-kids-importance-and-activities-to-improve/
10. Lucanus, Anton. “Oral Communication Skills Are Important for Students.” Stanford University. November, 2017. https://collegepuzzle.stanford.edu/oral-communication-skills-are-important-for-students/