My Communication Skills Classes.
I’m so pleased with the students attending my communication skills classes at the Ali Institute. Why? Well, I work with a number of students in different institutions and schools, and my experience has been somewhat ‘shallow’ – it seems that ‘learning’ means ‘sitting in the classroom and listening to the teacher’.
I don’t believe it’s possible to develop communication skills simply by ‘sitting in the classroom and listening to the teacher’! I make my lessons for communication skills highly interactive, with plenty of scope for practice and practical application of skills. Perhaps more importantly, we had so much fun it didn’t feel like hard work and we were all having fun! It certainly made my teaching easier.
Here are just a few of the activities we did:
1. Active listening exercise
I ‘labelled’ students as ‘1’ and ‘2’. ‘1’s were listeners and ‘2’s were talkers. Listeners were taken out of the room and told to ‘actively not listen’ for 1 minute, ‘listen but show no non-verbal communication’ for 1 minute and then to ‘actively listen’ for 1 minute. Some of the strategies the students used for ‘actively not listening’ were SO funny, and irritating! Afterwards we discussed feelings about not being listened to and strategies for active listening.
2. Building a sculpture
I made a model out of children’s building bricks and placed it secretly outside the room. I put the students into small groups and had them select one student as ‘the viewer’. The viewers left the room and had 1 minute only to view the model (we called it ‘the sculpture’!) but they were not allowed to touch it. I placed a pile of building bricks on the ‘teacher’s table’. The viewer, with hands always behind their backs, had to direct their groups to collect bricks from the ‘teacher’s table’ in order to reconstruct ‘the sculpture’. We had some very strange results and had an informed discussion about the need for clarity in speaking, the need for checking understanding of the listener, and questioning skills.
3. Telephone game
We had a series of telephone conversation role plays. I provided the scenario for the ‘caller’ and the ‘called’. The students sat back-to-back on chairs and played out their roles. Not seeing each other’s faces simulated a telephone conversation. Afterwards we discussed the differences between communication where we can each other and communication over the telephone.
4. Question the film star
I was the film star! The students had microphones and had to devise questions to grab my attention as I made my way quickly from my limousine to the film theatre (the length of the corridor!) If they asked interesting questions I would stop and talk to them otherwise I simply kept walking! Their task was to keep me on ‘the red carpet’ as long as possible. It took a number of tries, but in the end they were asking really imaginative, engaging questions. It was also good exercise as we marched up and down the corridor!