Effective communication is a foundational skill that shapes a student’s interactions, relationships, and academic success. These skills then carry on with a student throughout life! As elementary school teachers, you have a unique opportunity to lay the foundation for these moments of success by teaching positive communication skills in the classroom.
Why Communication Skills Are Important
Communication skills include far more than just speaking and listening. These skills are the building blocks of how people connect, understand, and collaborate together.
Teaching these skills early on in students’ lives is vital for their development and futures while also promoting a safer and more effective learning environment for everyone.
Positive Communication Skills
Taking time to teach effective communication doesn’t have to be hard! Teach students how to be active listeners and use respectful words and complete thoughts when speaking to others.
Be an Active Listener
Being an active listener is essential for building positive relationships with others. An active listener needs to pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal communication of others.
When students learn to recognize the emotions of others, they will be able to show empathy in conversations!
They also begin to ask questions and clarify messages with others which shows their interest in them more.
Use an acronym like S.L.A.N.T. to remind students how to be a good listener.*
S: sit up
L: lean forward
A: ask & answer questions
N: nod your head
T: track the speaker
*Grab this done-for-you visual in the Relationship Skills SEL Curriculum!
Use Respectful Vocabulary and Complete Thoughts
It’s easy for everyone to forget to be kind when feeling upset. I-Messages are a great way to model respectful language while speaking to others. I-Messages teach students to take responsibility for their feelings while speaking effectively with others.
Example: I felt sad when you didn’t play with me at recess today because we always have fun playing chase together.
It’s also important to use complete thoughts while communicating. Clearly explain each thought as you go along before moving on to the next.
Once you’ve taught these aspects of effective communication, you can reinforce learning through resources, books, videos, and activities to keep these interesting for students!
Use these done-for-you resources to be confident in your ability to teach effective communication to your students and make teaching a breeze!
Help students learn how to change YOU messages into “I statements” with this resource. When students don’t feel like they’re being blamed, they can be more receptive to productive conflict resolution.
This resource is great for whole-class lessons, small groups, and individual counseling sessions. This activity also helps build social skills for kids who have a hard time making or keeping friends!
This SEL curriculum about relationship skills includes all you need to target effective communication skills through active listening, conversations with superheroes, and several other engaging hero-themed activities that your students will love!
Relationship skills include more than just communication skills though… information and activities about social engagement, relationship building, and teamwork are included in this curriculum set too!
Books & Videos
*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I get a small commission that costs you nothing and helps me continue to provide this content.
Books and videos are a very engaging way to teach communication skills to elementary students. Both options can be used as a valuable tool to demonstrate the importance of clear communication in an age-appropriate way.
Here are some favorites you can include in your classroom library:
My Mouth is a Volcano! by Julia Cook
Louis struggles with erupting a lot, when other people talk words just pop out of his mouth. He has trouble interrupting, waiting for his turn to speak in class, and speaking at inappropriate times. His words slide down from his head, onto his tongue. His tummy rumbles, and grumbles, and his words start to wiggle and do a jiggle, and then his volcano (mouth) erupts.
Then in class during an important presentation for Louis, a classmate named Richard interrupts and tells a random story that takes all of the attention off of what Louis was saying. Louis learns how it feels to be interrupted. His mom teaches him how to control his eruptions by biting down hard and holding in the words, taking a deep breath, and pushing the words out through his nose. Then when it is your turn to talk, take a deep breath and push the words back into your mouth. Louis uses this technique and finds that it works to help keep his words inside until it's his turn to speak.
I Can Use an “I Statement” by Jenelle French
Using “I statements” is one of the most common strategies I use to teach kids conflict resolution skills. This book is such a great way to open up a discussion about using I messages. Meet Gabby, the little girl in the story who teaches us all about using I statements and how to be a problem solver. She encounters common kid conflict situations like a toy being taken from her, being called a mean name, and someone cutting in front of her in line. She uses the I statement: I feel (say how you feel) when you (describe what caused your feeling). Please (tell what you would like to happen). She discovers the more she uses the “I statement” the more her confidence grows and the more comfortable she is telling other kids how she feels.
Here are two videos you can use when teaching positive communication skills to your students:
This short video is about an adult helping a child practice using “I Messages” when she is feeling hurt.
This clip from Disney Pixar’s movie Inside Out demonstrates sympathy vs. empathy when listening to others.
Classroom Activities to Reinforce Positive Communication Skills
Help your students put their positive communication skills into action with these fun activities:
Create scenarios for students to practice using I-messages as they communicate with their peers.
Show and Tell
Use the classic “show and tell” fun to encourage students to use good communication skills like speaking with clarity, and asking follow-up questions.
Start or end your school day with a moment for an emotional check-in. Students can practice positive communication skills as they express their feelings out loud.
Teaching positive communication skills in the classroom is an ongoing process. Be patient and celebrate the small victories you see your students demonstrating. Your investment in teaching this skill now will reach farther than you can know as your students leave your classroom full of confidence and compassion!
You might also be interested in reading:
You might also be interested in these products:
Follow along and don’t miss a thing!