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The Big 13 – Effective Communication

Effective communication is an essential skill for life.

From understanding the importance of first impressions to having the confidence to speak in meetings, from sending appropriate emails to making a connection with someone over the phone – a high level of communication is necessary in so many aspects of life.

Children benefit from activities which develop communication and give them the tools and language to express themselves. Students need new vocabulary to be able to describe their learning and experiences, as well as activities which challenge them out of their communication ‘comfort zones.’

Case Study – Wath C of E Chocolate Topic

Stepping into Rachel Parkin’s classroom last autumn you couldn’t help but be immediately engrossed and impressed. Words and pictures were plastered on display boards, pegged to clothes lines and had crept up the walls, well past the coving that normally represented the frontier of decoration in other classrooms. Everywhere your eyes fell they landed on new vocabulary and definitions to reinforce learning. There were pictures, maps and books everywhere. Post-it notes with children’s ideas and work covered every available inch. The room was like a giant mood board, reflecting and strengthening the children’s learning experience.

With more than a dozen SEN students in a class of 31 Year Six children, Rachel is always looking for new ways to engage her pupils. During her term’s topic based around ‘Chocolate’ she decided to introduce an explicit ‘enterprise’ element where the children were set the challenge of designing, costing, making and selling a chocolate product.

Children went through an ‘application process’ to secure positions in ‘companies.’ They had to identify their own strengths and weaknesses and write letters and go through ‘interviews.’ This process was really illuminating for the children, who had to match their skills to the different roles and justify why. One boy said he wanted to be a ‘promoter’ because he knew he could talk a lot!

Once formed the ‘companies’ had to brainstorm ideas and negotiate between competing opinions. Groups developed strategies to deal with the disparate ideas – some voted, sometimes the ‘Chair’ took the final decision. Children looked at the power of advertising, and the importance of using persuasive language and different ways of communicating messages. They wrote their own slogans and then created and performed adverts in front of the class, stretching their normal communication boundaries with the added element of role play and presentation.

What felt markedly different about Rachel’s class was just how able the pupils were to express what they were doing and why. Many times a child can be in the middle of doing a wonderfully fun ‘enterprise’ activity, but when asked what they think ‘enterprise’ is they don’t really know. One ‘director’ in Rachel’s class said it was about ‘working together to make something,’ which was delivered with the confidence that only comes with a clearly developed idea. Rachel said she had regular discussions to reinforce learning, but also believed that children needed the visual prompts to be able to develop ideas and communicate clearly. She said:

“Thinking and writing are important, but speaking and listening are too. They have got to be able to express themselves coherently, and listen to others and learn. They need the visual stimulus – it helps everything sink in. They have got to know ‘why’ they are doing something too. The project made developing these skills easy – it captured their imagination and gave everything a purpose. I’ve seen a real change in them.”