One important skill we can teach students is how to communicate with others . In talking with general education teachers, one of their biggest concerns for students, especially students with special needs, is the importance of them learning to communicate and connect in the classroom . Once students get to high school, the expectation becomes stronger for students to use communication to help them succeed. As a result, communication skills are a curriculum target area with the students in our Academic Center.
Teacher Connect Students need to know how to get in touch with their teachers outside of the classroom. To begin with, we have students learn how to connect with their teachers. Does the teacher use a website? Do they use Moodle? Do they have set times to help students before or after school? What is their grading policy? Students review theses areas for all of their classes.
Communication with Teachers Throughout the semester, we work with students that may be having issues with a specific class. Some ways in which we help students with the communication process is by accompanying the student when they meet with a teacher. Often being there as a support person, can do wonders for student’s confidence. The student does most of the talking and we only speak up if the student needs the support. The progresses to future student/teacher meetings where we are no longer needed to accompany the student. If students need to contact teachers, we have them send an email to the teacher explaining their concern. Often teachers are able to clarify any questions with the student via email. While we work for students to speak with their teachers in person with concerns, we like the email contact for students who may otherwise forget to speak with their teachers, or who may have initial anxiety about face to face contact.
Communicating with Parents Every Monday in our classroom, students check grades for their core classes. They identify any missing assignments they may have as well as what their current grades. Students, not the teachers, call their parents if they have any Ds or Es in their classes. For the first calls, we review what type of information they need to provide their parents about their grades, and why they are calling home. They also state what their plan is to improve their grades. If needed, students can fill out a flowchart script to assist them with this conversation. For some students who struggle with communication and/or remembering information, this is vital. As students become more fluent in the calls, they move away from the script.
Communicating with Other Students As a blended program, our students come from a variety of learning and personal experiences. Some our students share many classes together. As a result, we integrate many team building activities into our classroom routines. From the Marshmallow Challenge to the Paper Tower Challenge to silent team building activities, we work with our students to learn to use a variety of communication skills to work successfully with others.
Communication is a skill that will be a driving force behind the success of students, and deserves a place in every classroom. What do you do to integrate teaching communication skills into your classroom?