This means that you make sure everyone gets a chance to talk. There are lots of techniques for this:
- Stand where students can see you clearly.
- Write topics and questions on the board.
- Invite students to talk in fun, fair, and non-threatening ways.
- Move around the room when asking students to talk.
- Make eye contact. But be aware that in many cultures, it’s rude for children to make eye contact with adults.
This shows students that you’re really listening to them. Acknowledging communication isn’t just for educators though, it’s important to foster these practices among students as well. It teaches respect and patience, and it encourages students who may have difficulty speaking. Several strategies can help:
- Invite students to speak and affirm their contributions when they do.
- Practice active listening.
- Promote active listening among students.
- Extend Q&A routines by avoiding flat-out statements. For instance, don’t say, “No, that’s not right.” Instead, say, “That’s interesting,” or “Okay, and . . .”
- Use questions that don’t have wrong answers so everyone can respond. For example, “What thoughts or feelings came to mind as you listened to the chapter?”
This means giving focused support to help students communicate. Augmenting communication is especially important for students with more complex language-development issues who may need ways to communicate other than speaking and writing. A number of techniques can help encourage communication from students with more complex communication issues:
- Give students more time to express their ideas. For some students, this means providing them with questions in advance so they can prepare answers.
- Provide alternate means for answering questions (e.g., computers or tablets).
- Use tools like a picture-based communication board.
- Use voice-simulation software (e.g., the simple speech generator on Google Translate).
- Encourage ELs to respond in their first language as a way to increase participation levels.
- For children with blindness or visual impairments, augment reading and writing with technological supports or braille.
Seeking, acknowledging, and augmenting communication help all students participate more successfully in the classroom. They help students become better communicators—and better communicators find it easier to build positive relationships with their classmates, teachers and parapros, and family members.
These strategies also help correct some all-too-common classroom practices. Many schools treat students’ silence as a good thing. Their classrooms have too much teacher talk and too little student talk. Why does this matter? Students actually learn better when they talk about what they’re learning. As educators who focus on equity and inclusiveness, our job is to create a learning environment that actively encourages everyone to communicate.