9 effective ways to teach communication skills to your pupils (2023)

Effective communication skills, like most things, need to be modelled and taught. It’s likely that effective speaking and listening skills are dealt with during English lessons in school, but effective communication skills can be utilised throughout the curriculum. Arguably, teaching effective communication skills is one of the most important jobs for a teacher. But where to begin?

Teach effective communication skills with our list of easy ways to effectively teach them in your classroom today.

What are the 5 basic communication skills that pupils need?

First, what does effective communication look like? While speaking and listening do make up some of what is needed for effective communication, there are other elements that make up a great communicator.

1. Being able to actively listen

This means not just listening to the words being said but being able to comprehend the ideas being communicated. It takes great concentration and attention.

2. Having empathy

Empathy means being able to see something from another’s point of view, often ignoring our own biases and/or judgement. Empathising is helpful in communication as it allows humans to tap into emotions and ideas.

3. Connecting with non-verbal communication

93% of communication is non-verbal, meaning being able to recognise signs in body position, facial expression, hand movements, gestures, eye contact, tone of voice and attitude all help towards better communication skills.

4. Being sensitive

Being sensitive to others when they are experiencing heightened emotion and recognising heightened emotion in ourselves is important. Listening and responding in a sensitive way to all kinds of emotions (anger, sadness, happiness, embarrassment, fear, etc) is a demonstration of great communication.

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5. The use of words

This might seem basic, but the expansion of vocabulary to ensure people can communicate their thoughts and feelings effectively is a lifelong journey. In children, expanding vocabulary that deals specifically with emotions can be a great starting point.

9 ways to teach children to communicate effectively

Begin to feed in these effective communication activities across the curriculum.

1. Teach children to empathise

Teaching children how to empathise is not a short process. But it is underpinned by some basic principles:

  • being able to recognise they have thoughts and feelings which are independent from other’s thoughts and feelings
  • have the ability to see a situation from another’s point of view
  • being able to recognise what responses are appropriate in particular situations

To teach these basic skills, you should commonly name and discuss feelings. Children need to be able to recognise and name their own feelings before they can communicate more effectively with others.

You can also begin to point out other people’s behaviours and feelings. That might be within the class, for example, “Fran is feeling sad because you took her pencil case without asking. Please give it back and ask politely.” You can also use TV shows and books to point out when a character is being empathetic, or not and explore and evaluate that with the children in your class.

Resources like Emotions Cubes help to provide a stimulus to start conversations about emotions and behaviours. You can shop the full emotional wellbeing range at Hope Education here.

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2. Establish rules for speaking and listening in the classroom

A big part of behaviour management involves establishing rules for speaking and listening. We might not consciously recognise that this is also great groundwork for a class of great communicators.

Make the rules for speaking and listening in the class simple and memorable and ensure they are enforced.

Rules might include:

  • One person speaks at a time.
  • Take turns to speak.
  • Try to make eye contact (be wary of this one if you have children in your class who are autistic as this can be a real challenge).
  • Respond with respect.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Use respectful language.
  • Think about your tone.
  • Listen when someone is talking to you.

3. Explicitly teach conversation skills

Conversations are incredibly complex and the rules for good conversation aren’t always straightforward. Nevertheless, it is possible to model great conversation with children.

Demonstrate good conversation by having short interactions with pupils where you ask them about themselves and use positive conversation enhancers to demonstrate interest, e.g. That’s interesting, mmmm, how lovely! (Hint to teachers of English and grammar: that last example is also a great example of an exclamatory phrase.)

For older pupils, you could take a look at a transcript of a real conversation and teach pupils the different elements of spoken discourse. Seeing a conversation in black and white can demonstrate clearly the people who dominate a conversation, who remains very quiet, and what kind of language is inclusive. Use a free transcript app to turn a conversation between pupils into a transcript your pupils can see and analyse.

4. What is respectful and what is not?

The best way to teach respect is to model and discuss it. By modelling respectful language, you provide cues for the children you teach for how to be respectful.

You might also want to model what disrespectful looks like by setting up a dummy conversation with a teacher buddy.

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  • Agree a time that your teacher buddy will come into your class whilst the class is getting on with something independently, agree on the topic of conversation and let the acting commence. One teacher ‘borrowing’ the board pen of another for too long works well as a conversation/argument starter.
  • Talk over the top of each other, raise voices and mimic the kind of disrespectful tone you often see in children when they argue.
  • Once the conversation/argument is done, reveal to the class the conversation was to demonstrate to the class what a disrespectful conversation looks like.
  • Get children to make notes and discuss what they saw and heard.
  • Discuss what each teacher could have done to show more respect in the conversation.

This activity will be particularly memorable because children see teachers as generally very composed and the lesson in respect will be long-lasting.

5. Teach non-verbal cues

As human beings we communicate a lot without even saying a word, making conversation pretty complex. But it is possible to teach non-verbal cues, both how to use them and how to recognise them in others.

You will need to explicitly teach the following elements:

  • Facial expressions
  • Body language
  • Eye contact
  • Tone of voice

You could start with very simple instructions for non-verbal cues: sitting up straight, nodding to show interest and asking questions are really simple ways of engaging in conversation.

You could also explore facial expressions and what different facial expressions communicate. The Feelings and Faces game from Hope Education is a great way to explore a range of emotions and how they might be represented in facial expressions.

6. Encourage turn-taking

As teachers, we often experience young children with something burning to say. When this occurs, turn-taking becomes a challenge. A great way to encourage turn-taking is to use a ‘conch’. In Lord of the Flies, order is attempted through the use of a conch shell; whoever holds the conch has permission to speak and the rest should take it as an indication to listen.

You can choose any item to be the ‘conch’ of your classroom, and unlike in Lord of the Flies, you should find order in communication is restored and more easily respected.

7. Teach quality questioning

Questioning is a skill. As teachers, we are taught to ask open-ended questions, ones that will lead pupils to more in-depth and thoughtful answers. There’s no reason why pupils can’t be taught the basics of this as well.

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Encourage them to actively listen to others and think carefully about the question they might reply with. You might like to show them a question matrix that encourages them to think of more complex/thoughtful questions to ask. The ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ questions will gain them simplistic answers. The ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions will gain them more insight into another’s thoughts.

8. Use group work for communication skills

Group work isn’t just great for children to share good ideas with each other, it’s also a great opportunity for children to exercise their communication skills. Carefully consider the task you set for children and the dynamics of the groups of children you put together. Different tasks and different mixes of types of children will result in different communication skills being worked on.

A practical teamwork task that works well is the paper bridge exercise. Each team has access to a limited amount of newspaper, sticky tape and a measuring tape and must create the longest bridge in 10 minutes. After the activity, discuss with pupils the need for effective communication, leadership and feedback.

9. Teach active listening

Active listening is an integral part to good communication skills. Pupils not listening is also probably one of the biggest woes for a teacher; all the more reason to practise!

Remind pupils they can be listening with more than just their ears; the eyes, body and heart are equally as important (see teaching non-verbal cues).

To practise active listening:

  • Put pupils in pairs and ask one child to tell the other about a happy memory, a funny story or a proud moment.
  • Instruct the ones listening to make eye contact, asking thoughtful questions and demonstrating interest.
  • After 5 minutes, stop the pupils and ask those who have been listening to volunteer to retell the story they have just heard.
  • Swap roles.

This activity will not only help pupils get to know each other, but they will also be able to practise those all-important listening skills in a low-pressure environment. You could also do a similar activity with a video or podcast.


What are 10 ways to communicate effectively? ›

There are specific things to do that can improve your communication skills:
  1. Listen, listen, and listen. ...
  2. Who you are talking to matters. ...
  3. Body language matters. ...
  4. Check your message before you hit send. ...
  5. Be brief, yet specific. ...
  6. Write things down. ...
  7. Sometimes it's better to pick up the phone. ...
  8. Think before you speak.

What are the 9 effective communication skills? ›

  • 9 Essential Communication Skills for any Workplace. ...
  • Listening skills. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Patience. ...
  • Positive attitude. ...
  • Being honest and open-minded. ...
  • Giving and receiving feedback. ...
  • Body language.
15 Feb 2021

What are 5 ways to make communication more effective? ›

5 Ways to Communicate More Effectively
  1. Be an engaged listener. Of course, the way you choose to send your message matters. ...
  2. Express yourself. Communication is about expressing yourself. ...
  3. Pay attention to nonverbal signs. ...
  4. Control your emotions. ...
  5. Make intentional language choices.
13 Feb 2019

What are 7 ways to improve communication skills unique tips? ›

7 Tips to Improve Verbal Communication Skills
  1. Think before you speak. ...
  2. Be clear and concise. ...
  3. Speak with confidence. ...
  4. Vary your vocal tone. ...
  5. Be an active listener. ...
  6. Be aware of non-verbal communication cues. ...
  7. Think about the perspective of your audience.
10 Mar 2020

What are the 7 C's of communication Class 9? ›

The seven C's of communication are a list of principles for written and spoken communications to ensure that they are effective. The seven C's are: clarity, correctness, conciseness, courtesy, concreteness, consideration and completeness.

Which is the most effective way of communication? ›

Hence, we can conclude that Written communication is the most effective way of communication.

What is effective communication class 9? ›

Effective communication is the process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, opinions, knowledge, and data so that the message is received and understood with clarity and purpose.

What are the 10 golden rules of communication? ›

Just 10 Golden Rules I have learned over many years of trial and error.
  • Communicate early and often. ...
  • Tell them everything or tell them nothing. ...
  • Empathize before you communicate. ...
  • Deliver on commitments that you communicate or do not make those commitments. ...
  • Use informal and formal channels.
16 Jun 2021

What are the 8 important elements of communication? ›

Key Takeaway

The communication process involves understanding, sharing, and meaning, and it consists of eight essential elements: source, message, channel, receiver, feedback, environment, context, and interference.

What are the 6 important parts of effective communication? ›

The 6 Key Factors to Successful Communication
  • Listening.
  • Verbal Communication.
  • Nonverbal Communication.
  • Emotional Awareness.
  • Written Communication.
  • Communicating in Difficult Situations.
20 Apr 2021

What are the four ways of effective communication? ›

Ways to communicate effectively in the workplace
  • Verbal communication. When you communicate with people verbally, you can build strong relationships with others. ...
  • Nonverbal communication. ...
  • Written communication. ...
  • Visual communication.

What are the 5 ways to improve your communication skills provide explanations and examples? ›

Latest News
  1. Listen. Paying attention and truly listening to someone underpins good communication. ...
  2. Be aware of body language. The way our body is positioned when we talk to someone is a form of communication. ...
  3. Ask questions. It's okay to clarify! ...
  4. Be brief and to the point. ...
  5. Take notes.
31 Aug 2017

What activities improve communication skills? ›

5 Communication Activities for Adults
  • Card Pieces. This exercise from the team at MindTools is a good way to help participants develop more empathy, consider other perspectives, build their communication and negotiation skills. ...
  • Listen and Draw. ...
  • Communication Origami. ...
  • Guess the Emotion. ...
  • The Guessing Game.
27 May 2019

What are the most effective methods for communication? ›

Verbal communication makes the conveying of thoughts faster and easier and is the most successful methods of communication.


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