I work with my students on their communication skills all throughout the year. There are opportunities to work with students one-on-one when they are:
- interrupting me in a conversation,
- mumbling or incoherent,
- shouting out instead of raising their hand,
- not participating in a classroom discussion, and
- starting a conversation with me without making eye contact or saying my name.
There are also moments in the day when I get to help students improve their communication while working with their peers. I tend to jump in whenever students are:
- arguing with each other,
- dominating a conversation,
- being too passive in a conversation,
- distracted while someone in their group is talking, and
- interrupting while someone else is talking.
Finally, there are times when I try to teach my students how to be an above-average communicator. I try to help them:
- face the speaker,
- give eye contact,
- reflectively respond (I think I hear you saying...),
- make smooth transitions between subjects, and
- add on to what others are saying.
By learning these skills now, students will have years to practice and get comfortable at communicating with others that they will be more successful in interviews and in the working world. Not only that, but they will be more confident with their friends and less likely to be worried about public speaking.
In order to assess this skill, I have taken the guidelines from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. They are a wonderful resource, and have graciously allowed me to reuse their information on my 21st Century report card located at the end of this post. In addition, I have used many of the ideas from Habits of Mind by Art Costa in my behavior descriptors.
Below is a list of the five behaviors that I look for when assessing my students on "Communicating Clearly." Under the behaviors is a sliding scale that has ten marks on it where a dot is drawn to represent their current aptitude. The labels, "Beginning," "Developing," and "Secure" attempt to describe the relative position of the dot that is drawn, in terms that make sense. I have used this as a self-assessment with my students (which leads into setting appropriate goals), and I also complete one and attach it to their actual report cards.
When scoring my students, I preferred to look at a skill, look at the behaviors associated with the skill, and determine who in my class was performing at a "10" level. Generally speaking, no one was at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year I felt that several were! After recording the tens, I would go to the nines, etc. Wherever I ended up, that was the lowest score. I found myself having trouble giving out ones, twos, and threes at the end of the year, but they were fairly common early on.
I had some great discussions with some of my students about areas that we disagreed on last year. They thought they were a ten when I thought they were a three, for example. All I needed to do was point out the behaviors that were listed above. I would ask the student, "Can you give me an example of a time when you performed that behavior in front of me?" The answer was often, "No, but I do it all the time!" I would just reiterate the importance of doing it when the teacher can see it. At that point on, these students had more motivation to do the behavior because they had to prove me wrong!!! Either way, I was happy because my students were performing the behaviors that 21st Century students need to perform! And it's like dominoes. When one does it, they all start to do it. :)