Motivating and engaging students by cultivating authentic communication in your classroom.

by Stefani Cook

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

Introduction

I think it’s important to use authentic communications settings and situations to better prepare students for the world that they will enter upon graduation.

As a business educator, I know that effective verbal communications skills are essential for operating successfully in today’s world. I have developed an approach with my students that has four main steps:

-Assess student ability to verbally communicate – What are they good at? What are they not good at?

-Teach effective communications skills and integrate that skill development inside the current curriculum;

-Utilize authentic situations in the school to practice effective communication including bringing people in from the community; and

-Reflect on what they do well and what they can do better for future success.

As a result of this intensive concentration of developing communications skills, so many positive things have come of it. Student punctuality and attendance are higher; there is a generally higher level of excitement in the class; and for me, it has made my job more fun and challenging.

Reflections

What I did well…

In this instructional sequence, the concept of building “authentic” verbal communication activities for students is well defined and many examples are shared.  I was so pleased that our “participating” classroom suggested imaginative yet “authentic” communication examples such as a phone call between students in two different classrooms teaching students the verbal skills of clarity, process, and courtesy during an “authentic” telephone conversation.

What I would do more of, better, or differently…

In this sequence, I wish I had encouraged and/or demonstrated self-reflection a bit more with my audience.  This is such a powerful tool that is often overlooked in the classroom.  Students must be taught how to self-reflect and make connections to learning which in turn creates ownership and eventually cements knowledge.  In this sequence, examples of self-reflection could have included activities such as a reflecting journal, a video recording, student observation, and peer observation.

I still want to grow in this practice by…

As a professional-technical educator, I have the opportunity to work closely with local business professionals.  A continual theme I hear from our professional community is “young employees can’t communicate effectively” or “I often don’t hire young employees because they don’t know how to verbally communicate”.  Now more than ever, I am convinced of how important the practice of verbal communication is to our students.  Sharing this information with students and parents alike is vital.  I will continually look for additional authentic situations to incorporate on a daily basis to mirror the real world inside the classroom.  Information from our local business men and women will be sought out through our Advisory Committees to foster communication situations that students can authenticate and practice.  Students will also be invited to contribute to the creative process and incorporate their own real world communication experiences or those that they hope to have in the future.

About Stefani Cook

Stefani Cook is from southeastern Idaho. She has been a teacher in the Jefferson County School District for the past 24 years and currently serves ...

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