Effective Communication Does Matter in the Classroom
Strong communication skills are often the key to negotiations and interactions with others. For example, in your workplace, clear and thoughtful communication leaves little room for misunderstanding, which means less potential for conflict. Effective communication at work can thus create greater job security and healthier workplace relationships. In the school setting, efficient communication can help to build and foster a safe learning environment where students can thrive.
The book Communication, Affect, & Learning in the Classroom states, “Teaching is about establishing effective communication relationships with your students. Tactful teachers are effective communicators. They are those who consciously and strategically make decisions about both what is communicated and how it is communicated.” Indeed, the way that you communicate with your students can directly affect their perceptions of school, their role in the classroom, their abilities, and their motivation to succeed. By strengthening your communication skills, you can more effectively perform your teaching tasks, manage your classroom, and motivate students toward academic progress.
As an educator, practicing communication skills daily is a must because you are responsible for breaking down complex information and conveying it in simplified parts to your students, both in both verbal and written forms. You also need to do this in a way that inspires your students to want to know more. Furthermore, as an effective communicator, you are also modeling for your students how to improve their own communication skills, which are critical for their development and future learning.
To be able to speak fluently and confidently, you can practice by reading books and articles to accumulate knowledge about superior communication skills. We suggest We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter or Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. These books will give you ideas on how to start conversations and communicate well in them. You could also attend public speaking workshops to learn strategies for presenting ideas. Alternatively, you could practice your lectures with your friends or family, as long as you are open to their constructive feedback. Remember: being an educator means you are also a lifelong learner, constantly seeking to grow your knowledge and skill set.
In this article, we will outline some of the strategies you can use to help you and your students strengthen communication skills.
Create a supportive learning environment
A supportive learning environment can be built through positive and open communication. As educators, it is essential to create a safe place where students feel comfortable opening up to ask questions and express their thoughts. To guarantee they are safe from judgment or embarrassment in your classroom, you can create communication rules for students. For example, to remind them to respect each other’s opinions, one rule can be “Do not laugh or interrupt in any other way when another student is talking.”
You can also model supportive communication by offering genuine and timely praise. For instance, you can tell students “You did a great job explaining your point of view” or “Thank you for sharing your opinion.” When students feel heard and appreciated, they are more comfortable expressing their thoughts in class discussions, taking on challenges, and asking for help when needed. Higher engagement leads to better-developed knowledge and higher achievement in the classroom.
Be aware of your nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication is another important aspect to be aware of in the classroom. The signals you are giving with your body language can help facilitate an accepting, positive, and engaging atmosphere. For example, making eye contact with students when you talk to them shows that you are supportive and attentive, which motivates your students to be more involved. Uncrossing your arms when talking with students signals your openness to the discussion, welcoming their input. Smiling, nodding, and giving a thumbs-up can also send positive nonverbal cues.
Moreover, you can use gestures to emphasize your words when you teach. This increases the interactivity of the lesson, making it more visually exciting and memorable. For instance, moving around the classroom while you teach can help to remove the barrier between you and your students, while also giving them fewer opportunities to become distracted. Or the use of hand gestures, like wide arms to indicate something large or close together finders to refer to something small, can help improve understanding, especially for your students who are dominantly visual learners. Overall, nonverbal cues can be used to enliven the classroom atmosphere and strengthen your teaching approach.
Have clear instructions in your lessons
Clarity in communication is vital because it affects students’ understanding of lessons. For this reason, you should always be clear and concise and adapt your language to your audience.
In the classroom, you can break complicated ideas into simpler aspects, utilizing different examples and contexts to demonstrate the points. To ensure everyone understands, you can ask students open-ended questions like “Explain the directions to your neighbor” or “Why is this the first step?” This allows them to summarize the instructions they heard/read in their own words, deepening comprehension and helping you to identify misunderstandings. In addition to helping students strengthen their communication skills, this also helps students develop their critical thinking abilities.
Include ample opportunities for teamwork
Group work is a great way to encourage communication and cooperation among students. Also, it pushes them to speak more to express themselves effectively with their peers. So try organizing students into pairs or small groups and allow them to work together on tasks. Mix up allowing them to choose their partners with assigning them partners so that they have opportunities to work with peers outside of their normal circle too. You will likely find that, with group work, the students will ask more questions and give more input than they would if the task was discussed as an entire class.
Also, this is a good opportunity for you to communicate with them in a different way. You can check in with the groups, asking specific students questions like “What are your ideas?” and “What is the biggest challenge?” This type of small group interaction will help strengthen their relationship with you as well as give you a better understanding of their needs and thoughts.
Initiate opportunities for sharing
Verbalising and engaging in concepts out loud has been shown to assist in solidifying learning. Thus, as a teacher, you should generate many opportunities for pupils to talk in class. Start by considering alternative methods of speaking up, such as “Write, Pair, Share” or using a talking piece to pass around. Keep in mind that it is not usually easy for a shy student to talk in front of the class. Introverted students often need more time to process their ideas and thoughts before expressing them to a group. So if you do assign class presentations, consider allowing them 1-2 weeks to prepare, practice, and even discuss their fears with you. You can give them some personalized advice to help with their presentation, such as positive visualizations and deep breathing. This will help them strengthen their communication skills in group settings, better preparing them for the future.
Have regular conversations with students to improve their learning experiences
Make sure to keep the line of communication with your students open. Find opportunities to discuss their strengths, learning styles, and goals. Then you can use that information to better shape your lessons. Try to design student-centered lessons that are centered around students’ interests and preferences. Consider up-to-date teaching aids such as podcasts, videos, and online learning resources which are great at keeping students engaged and reinforcing their understanding of the lessons. The more you speak to your students, the better you can personalize your teaching process and understand where they are coming from. Plus, giving students chances to speak with you will strengthen their communication skills when speaking with adults.
Support to Strengthen Communication Skills in Students
At Educate. Radiate. Elevate., we tutor students using student-centered, social-emotional, culturally responsive, and trauma-informed teaching practices. Our goal is to create a positive and meaningful relationship between student and tutor, which increases student motivation and engagement. Maintaining an open line of communication encourages our students to speak up and share confidently. This in turn helps us understand them better and be able to more efficiently help them succeed in their educational goals. Our aim is to help shrink the achievement gap through these proven-effective teaching methods, and we would love your support! Be a force for good by donating here!