Teaching Good Communication Skills In The Classroom

These activities are fun ways to teach communication skills to high school students.

High school teachers are often challenged by teaching communication skills. Their students have already spent most of their lives speaking and listening and sometimes resist efforts to teach them what they think they already know.

The following activities can add some spice into teaching communication skills as well as appeal to different types of learners.

Oh, Cabjous Day!

Divide students into three groups. Tell the groups that they all have a common goal¡Xto put together a jigsaw puzzle in a limited amount of time. However, each group speaks a different language from the other groups. Each group¡¦s language consists of only one word. Assign each group a nonsense word. For example, you might assign group one the word ¡§cariffle,¡¨ group two ¡§woobidee,¡¨ and group three ¡§varipipip.¡¨

Divide the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle among the three groups. Tell groups they have two minutes to plan how they want to communicate with the other groups to put together the puzzle. During this planning phase, group members may communicate freely with one another. When the groups join together to build the puzzle, the only words that may be spoken are the nonsense words assigned to each group. For example, group one may only say ¡§cariffle¡¨ while members of group two may only say ¡§woobidee.¡¨ Students must rely on varying the variety, quality, rate, and volume of their vocal communication in order to accomplish their goal.

Give groups five minutes to try to put the puzzle together. Remind them to only use their assigned word and to try to communicate by varying their vocal characteristics. Ask students to share their insights on what happened during the activity. Discuss how students were able to communicate vocally, even when the words they used were nonsense.

I See What You are Saying

Divide students into groups of three. Near each group, place two chairs back to back. Ask two students to sit in the chairs. Tell the third student to face one of the sitting students. Ask the sitting student facing the standing student to describe a funny situation he or she has experienced. The person sitting with his or her back to the speaker should listen closely. The person facing the storyteller should carefully observe the speaker¡¦s facial expressions, gestures, and other nonverbal movements.

Tell the person who sat with his or her back to the speaker to report to his or her group what the story was. Tell groups to compare perceptions of the student who watched the speaker and the participant who only listened. Discuss the following questions with the entire group:

- Did the observers tend to see and hear the same message as the listener? Why or why not?

- How did the speakers feel knowing that their words and actions were being closely monitored? In real-life situations, how do you handle feelings of being watched by others as you speak?

- How does nonverbal communication affect communication with employees with disabilities such as visual impairments or hearing impairments?

What¡¦s In It For Me?

Before the class session, choose a short article from a newspaper, magazine, or journal to share with the class. The subject isn¡¦t important, but the article should have a lot of details in it. Casually mention at the beginning of a class period that you read an interesting article and would like to share it with them. Read the article to the class. After you¡¦ve finished reading the article, pull out a one dollar bill and say, ¡§Okay, I¡¦ve got a few questions for you based on the article you just heard. Whoever gets all the questions right wins this dollar.¡¨ Have each student take out a blank sheet of paper. Ask students eight to ten questions based on details from the article. Ask them to write their answers on the sheet of paper. Have students switch papers and then tell them the answers. Ask if anyone knew the answers to all of the questions. It is unlikely that any one person will have answered all of the questions correctly. Give the dollar bill to the student with the most correct answers. Say to students, ¡§You all heard the story, yet few of you could remember very much about it.¡¨ Ask students why they didn¡¦t remember much after listening to the story. Discuss how they could improve their listening skills and whether they would have listened more attentively if they had known ahead of time that there would be a prize. Discuss how the four stages of active listening could have helped them.

Game Shows

Divide students into three teams. Ask Team A to prepare a six-question short-answer quiz on vocal communication. Allow five minutes. Ask Teams B and C to review their class notes on the topic while Team A prepares its quiz. Tell Team A to ask Team B one of its questions. If Team B cannot answer the question or answers incorrectly, Team C may try to answer the question. Team A directs its next question to Team C first and repeats the process. Team A continues to ask questions until the quiz is done.

Ask Team B to prepare a similar quiz on verbal communication. Ask Teams A and C to review their class notes on verbal communication while Team B prepares its quiz. Repeat the quiz process from above. Ask Team C to prepare a similar quiz on listening skills while Teams A and B review their class notes. Repeat the quiz process again.

Listening in Motion

Divide students into pairs. Ask partners to take turns explaining a concept learned in one of their other classes. For example, they might explain how to write a geometry proof, or what a feudalistic governmental system is, or the theme of a book they read in literature. Remind the listening partner in each pair to use the active listening techniques you have taught (such as mirroring, paraphrasing, summarizing, self-disclosure, and clarifying questions). Spend a minute or two with each pair to make sure they are using active listening skills correctly. Offer praise or suggestions for improvement when necessary. Ask each pair to demonstrate to another pair their effective use of active listening skills.

Listen to What I Hear

Ask two volunteers to give you directions to their homes. Practice good listening techniques with the first person and poor listening techniques with the second. Ask students what you did that showed you were a good listener in the first example and what you did that showed you were a poor listener in the second.

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