Monday, February 13, 2017

3 Lessons to Improve Communication Skills

This took place recently in my Bright World Thinkers class (for Primary 1 to 4 kids).


At lesson 1, most of these kids were not sure how to contribute to a discussion.

Everyone could answer questions if I posed them some, especially if the answers to my questions were already in a handout that was given to them. But that, to me, is the easy part, since they were being spoonfed with content.

Some could express their views. Many had no views or maybe they had but were too shy to say anything.

One or two would ask questions and be able to contribute to discussions with me leading and facilitating, i.e. a class discussion. But when they were placed in a group to discuss among themselves, most were completely lost. They understood the task but just did not know what to say to each other.

In addition to learning content and discussing issues, ideas and views etc... a big focus of all my classes was on the training of communication skills, both verbal and written. 

In every lesson, through the carefully planned activities that students were introduced to, they were shown techniques to communicate better.

By lesson 3 (in the photos and Facebook post), they could already be placed in groups, given their tasks and just with some simple pointers, get on with their discussion independently.

I get immense satisfaction just watching the kids, putting all that they have learnt into practice!

Once again, this proves my long-standing beliefs that every child can learn to communicate better. They do not have to wait till they are older. Why wait?

Just imagine how much they could gain with better communication skills!

Whether it is about expressing one's views or contributing to a group discussion, every child can learn and improve, as long as they are shown HOW to do so and given the opportunities to practise.

Just putting kids in groups without proper guidance on the HOW to discuss, will not work effectively for everyone. Occasionally the more savvy ones may figure "it" out. But most will not improve their communication skill.

Just telling kids all the pointers on HOW to discuss, also will not work. Like all skills, communication skill can only be honed through lots of practice. And there has to be immediate constructive feedback to their child, so he knows how he can improve.

So is it really possible to improve everyone's communication skill in just 3 lessons? Of course it is.

However, there is one group of students who needs more time.

We can take a thirsty horse to the river but if the horse refuses to drink, will the horse die of thirst? 

I have come across students who simply would not say anything in class. I am sure they are too nervous, scared, intimidated, shy and/or afraid to make mistakes or be seen as not clever enough etc.....

Yes, personality counts. But who says introverts and those who are usually shy are unable to contribute or speak up. Any parents who believe this have a fixed mindset and unfortunately, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy for their kids.

The real issue here is a lack of self-confidence and resilience. For some, they also have a high need for validation, approval and praise, likely because they come from an environment whereby they are used to tons of praises and validation for what they have achieved. This is one BIG reason I refrain from such praises.

But I heap praises on effort. The effort to TRY and those who put in effort to PERSEVERE are the ones who will improve. They may take longer to show results because now it is not just a case of working on the child's communication skill but also his self-confidence and resilience.

The more these kids are exposed to an environment where they can witness other children learning to communicate, making mistakes and improving from them, these once-quiet-and-reserved kids will eventually realize there is nothing to fear to open their mouths, utter some words and raising their volume.

It is the first step that we want. After that, the next few steps will come fast and furious.

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