Why should teachers be invested in improving learners' communication skills? Simply put,
meaningful communication is an important ability 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.
When it comes to acquiring indispensable communication skills, there’s no time like the present. As their teacher, you can follow these strategies to enhance a student’s speaking and writing abilities, no matter their age.
The Path to Improving Learners' Communication Skills
These tips can help you immensely with improving learners' communication skills. They can be adapted for most every kind of student from kindergarten to high school. Build better speakers and writers 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
- intellectual/emotional connection
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 learners' 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 for improving communication are VoiceThread and Paper Telephone. Another option is using brain training apps like Lumosity or Fit Brains which develop a number of skills including communication.
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, it also gives them the opportunity to debate their opinions, take turns, and work together towards a common goal.
5. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions are vital for inspiring discussion and demonstrating that there are multiple ways to perceive and answer a question. This is because they require more than a one- or two-word response. 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 with 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 Workbook.
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 both giving and receiving constructive criticism.
One particularly useful tool in reflective learning has always been the portfolio. These are collections of learners’ work that bring insight and understanding. In addition, it allows them to become familiar with their own learning process. As such, it's a perfect medium for improving learners' communication skills. Ultimately the best platform for building learner portfolios is Wabisabi.
8. Find Teachable Moments
Whatever the age group you are working with, maximize on the everyday happenings in and beyond 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. Organize Small Group Discussions
Discussing things as an entire class is fun, but often a select few students end up taking the lead. What you're left with is a larger group of learners that sits and listens and doesn't engage. The saddest part of this is there are many brilliant opinions and insights that never get heard. Additionally, speaking in larger groups can intimidate some students who prefer more intimate discussion settings.
The way to fix this is to break the class into smaller groups to engage in their own topic discussions. First, there is a greater chance for all students to be heard. Second, a more close-knit setting could help more quiet students open up.
10. Seek Their Feedback
Communication is what learning is all about; we communicate content, understanding, assessment, and much more. It's why we must remain open to our students' insights and opinions, and ensure they know we value such things. That's why improving learners' communication skills begins with asking them questions.
What did they think about the days' learning? What questions do they still have? Where do they need assistance? What could be improved on? What are they excited about learning next? There are literally hundreds of questions you can share with learners to open the lines of communication. Be creative, challenge them, and encourage them to express themselves in healthy and constructive ways.
Editor's Note: This is an updated version of our original article on improving learners' communication skills.