Effective communication is a crucial component of teaching. It allows teachers to share information, give feedback, and build relationships with their students.
Here are a few essential communication strategies that teachers need to make connections and foster learning for their students:
Positive reinforcement is a powerful communication strategy that teachers can use to encourage and motivate their students.
It is closely linked to praise, another essential strategy to use in your classroom. The difference is that positive reinforcement can take a range of different forms; it’s more than just praise.
Sharing a student’s good work, listening to their ideas and helping students to elaborate on them, and even simply smiling at a student while they are talking are all forms of positive reinforcement. It is important to remember that positive reinforcement is more than just what you say – you need to embed it in every interaction you have with your students.
Clear and Concise Instructions
Clear and concise instructions should be the core of your teaching. There is a bit of an art to it, but teachers need to take the time to explain instructions in a way that is easy for students to understand.
Using simple language, avoiding jargon, and providing examples to help students better understand the task at hand can not only help students understand but also ease their anxiety.
Open-ended questions cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” response. They require students to focus on thinking critically and share their thinking process rather than defaulting to a single correct answer.
Teachers can use open-ended questions to encourage students to share their opinions, to explore different perspectives, and generate new ideas. All of these are essential to learn about a concept or topic deeply.
As with many communication strategies, asking open-ended questions takes some practice. An experienced teacher can pull a great open-ended question out of their head in any context, but it takes some time.
If you are just starting your career, it is well worth focusing on and being aware of what questions you are asking your students. You don’t want them to go through life with a fixed mindset; that there is a right and wrong answer to every question.
Another type of question! Probing questions encourage students to challenge their thinking or expand on their ideas.
How often have you asked a student a question, only to get an “I don’t know”? Probing questions can be uncomfortable (because thinking deeply is uncomfortable), but asking students to go deeper into what they DO know about a topic can be incredibly beneficial for their learning.
Challenging assumptions is another way you can use probing questions. Ask students to think about why their answer may not be correct or explain in depth how they came to their conclusion. If you’re talking about opinions, asking students why they have opinions or who/where they learnt it could be incredibly powerful.
Non-verbal communication is essential for teachers. It isn’t enough to communicate with your students verbally and non-verbal communication can also be especially impactful.
Facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice can significantly change your meaning. It is essential to be mindful of your non-verbal communication to ensure that your message is being received properly.
Actions are another form of non-verbal communication. Marking a student’s work quickly can show that you care and prioritise them. It can also help build trust and rapport. If you’re giving feedback, written communication can often come across as harsher than if you were to have a conversation about their work. Even the colour of your pen can communicate a certain message that you need to be mindful of.
Active listening is when you fully focus on the speaker’s message. Teachers who actively listen to their students can better understand their needs, concerns, and questions, as well as build the foundations of a strong relationship.
Active listening isn’t just about taking in information. Students who feel they are being listened to find it easier to connect with and trust their teachers. In fact, active listening is a key strategy to support students with trauma for this exact reason.
Paraphrasing is restating a statement or question in your own words. Teachers can paraphrase what a student has told them to confirm that they understand what their students are saying.
Miscommunication is something that you want to avoid in your classroom. Not only can it lead to incorrect information, but it can also break down trust and confidence. You want to make sure that you paraphrase what your students are saying, but also encourage them to paraphrase you to ensure that you have also been understood.
Paraphrasing effectively is another skill that takes practice. It is difficult to do more than just repeat what the other person has said in the beginning.
To paraphrase effectively, you also need to be actively listening. Taking in the message someone is trying to convey will help you paraphrase to ensure that you’ve understood. It takes some practice, and possibly some explicit teaching, to support your students to do this properly. The impact on their learning though, will be huge.
Metacommunication is communication about communication. I’ve touched on this in a few of the other points above, but as teachers, we need to remember that we must teach our students how to communicate.
Communicating about the message itself, such as clarifying the meaning, intent, or implications of the message, does more than just support students in understanding. In breaking down your message, you can model your thinking process. This, in turn, can help your students reflect on their own.
Everything you do with your students is some form of communication. How you enter a room, how you move around, and even how you look can send a message to your students.
Being mindful of how you communicate, and how you CAN communicate, can support your students’ learning and build their confidence and life skills. Being a good communicator is an essential skill that needs to be taught explicitly. Making sure that you model fantastic communication will do more than just help your students while they are at school. It will set them up for a bright future.
See more: Why Male and Female Teachers NEED to Use Different Teaching Strategies