With the accelerating pace of digital media, dynamic career options, and increasing competition in universities and workplaces, communication is an important skill for all students of this day and age to master.
As modern teachers, we at Seth Anandram Jaipuria School follow these eight strategies to enhance students’ speaking and writing abilities, irrespective of their age.
1. Watching movies that shape conversation skills
Students can watch movies and videos to observe the interactions between characters and imbibe their communication styles to be more effective speakers, writers and listeners. This intrigues them to ask questions such as, “What message is the listener conveying by adopting a certain body language – say, crossing arms?”
We at Seth Anandram Jaipuria School organize ‘Lessons in the Dark’ for students, which is basically cinema in education, as a means to reflect on the body postures shown. This enables them to understand the importance of these elements in making effective conversations.
2. Using technology
Listening and reading along with smart board modules to understand the speaker’s diction and articulation of different words and phrases is a practice that the school highly propagates for our students. Their voice is recorded and is played to them over and over again until they are satisfactorily close to the conversational style of the module in question. We understand that at times culture has a bearing on the diction and intonation and some of this could be attributed to the student’s mother tongue. However, practicing this at an early age makes it possible for them to conform to more accurate forms of modulation.
3. Stressing on active listening
Just like a coin, communication too has two sides. It isn’t just about speaking, it’s also about listening. At Seth Anandram Jaipuria School we help students develop this skill by reading a section of a text aloud, and then having the class discuss and ponder on the content.
Active listening implies listening to understand instead of listening to reply. We reinforce good listening skills by motivating students to practice asking specific questions to completely comprehend the speaker’s intended message. Having said this, we lay stress on critical thinking that helps the students to decipher “what” to ask and not just “how” to ask.
4. Engaging in group presentations and assignments
Team-building exercises like Project Based Learning on interdisciplinary topics also helps students strengthen both, oral and written communication. Not only does it offer students the opportunity to work in small groups to maximize the overall group performance by utilizing individual strengths, but also gives them the opportunity to debate their opinions, take turns, and work together towards a common goal. All their work presentations are displayed in the classroom for further references and learnings. The print rich classroom thus creates a deeper impact.
5. Asking open-ended questions
Open-ended questions are pivotal in starting discussions and help in establishing that there are multiple ways to perceive and answer a question. At Seth Anandram Jaipuria School we encourage students to ask anything they are curious about, and one such question becomes the question of the day at ‘The Question Corner’ which is open to all. Children come up with various responses. A lot of constructive debate is done on these responses and the teachers help the students to amalgamate the most appropriate ones so as to address the query.
For example, a question was asked by a student, “Why do we need to care about animals when they bite us?” This was a moment to teach the concept of ‘Empathy’, and to our surprise the variety of responses received were unbelievable.
Circle time activities go a long way in getting different responses by the students for open ended questions. What we observed was how much more information students can obtain by asking questions like “what did you like best about the picnic?” instead of simply asking “Did you like the picnic?”
6. Using tasks and activities that promote 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. Children are also expected to write about the dispositions and the things they have learnt while doing a task or once a topic is completed.
7. Offering reflective learning environment
Students are promoted to reflect on their oral performance in small groups. Each of them is asked to critique his teammates so that they become receptive to constructive feedback. This is an excellent method for assessing their communication strengths and development areas.
8. Finding teachable moments
Leveraging day to day interactions in the classroom environment is the best method to create an everlasting impression on the minds of the students. For example, if a student answers a question in a rather complicated fashion, teachers could encourage him to rephrase and make it simpler and more specific. If the students encounter an unfamiliar word in a text or in a film, we must pause in order to let the class search for the meaning of the word in a dictionary. For us these strategies are giving effective results, however there are many more which are yet to be explored. We are always on the road towards greater learning and welcome any suggestions that could contribute to our endeavor.