“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
— Ralph Nichols
We’ve all had teachers who were considered “brilliant” but who, nevertheless, were a bore in class or who were unable to engage the students in the classroom. Sharpen your effective communication skills in the classroom and watch how your students become more engaged and your classroom a more fun place to learn!
- Listen: No matter how many years of experience you have don’t always assume that you know what is going on through your student’s head. If you’re not having the results you expected with your pupil, it may be you overlooked something that you could easily resolve just by asking and listening.
- Describe Clear Goals: make sure you communicate a clear vision of the objective you wish your students to achieve. If you see any puzzled looks from the class, explain again, or ask one of your students to explain in their own words what they understood is the purpose of the lesson (project, homework, term, or whatever the issue at hand is) so you can double-check if everyone is on the same page.
- Give praise: everyone likes to hear they’re doing a good job and your students are no different. If you see someone having real difficulty with a specific subject it is especially helpful to praise even small improvements, as it will motivate your student to keep pushing forward towards the goal. Don’t be cheap with your kind words!
- Be accessible: you have an important job to do and your students depend on you for their learning process. Let them know you care by offering a designated time during the week where they can meet with you or talk over the phone or Skype for any questions they may have regarding class work. You can also give them a special email address you have set up for this purpose or create an online forum for open questions. You don’t have to offer “24-7 service” but make sure they can reach you if they need to.
- Build teamwork: if your whole classroom is working together to achieve similar goals it creates an environment that makes communication easier, it will help students help each other and build the camaraderie needed to make the classes run more smoothly.
- Use humor: Sometimes humor can lighten up the mood and be the lube that keeps the gears moving smoothly in your classroom. This does not mean you have to turn your lecture into standup comedy –unless, of course, you teach standup comedy!- but keep things light and have a little fun. A little humor can even get your students to do a task that may not be their favorite.
- Embrace Variety: it really is the spice of life and routines are a mood killer. So introduce new tools in your teaching repertoire: use role-play, bring an expert, do an interview, prepare a debate or make your students research and teach the subject. Non-stop lectures will only make whatever you’re teaching less memorable for students.
- Keep it real: it’s easier to learn something new when you understand how it relates to your life. So next time you tackle a new subject show your students how they can find evidence of how they can use the new information in their life or how it relates to their daily activities. It’s amazing when they understand how things in art and history, for example, can influence fashion or buildings, or how math helps to build bridges and statistics are used in polls. Be creative!
Also, check out these great books:
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Watch this video where students are asked “What Makes a Good Teacher?”
What makes a great teacher?