Learning

Your ultimate guide to communication skills and activities for students

Is your child a good communicator?

While not everyone grows up to become a speaker, host or author, communication skills are essential for success in school, university and after. Students with good communication skills are more likely to make friends, participate in class and perform better academically.

But how can we, as parents and teachers, support students to become excellent communicators? In this article, we’ll talk about:

The 4 basic communication skills

Before you can teach communication to your kids, it’s important to understand what it really means to communicate.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, communication is defined as “the process by which messages or information is sent from one place or person to another, or the message itself.” Communication is a two-way process, which also means there must be someone to receive the message or information being sent.

What does all of this have to do with communication skills?

To put it simply, good communication is not only about expressing your ideas; it also includes listening to others, interpreting information and understanding the message being shared. These may seem complicated, but we can boil them down to four basic skills:

  • speaking,
  • writing,
  • listening, and
  • reading.

Let’s take a deeper look at each skill and how it’s used in a classroom setting.

Speaking

Oral communication is the primary way we express ourselves. In a classroom setting, speaking skills are essential for discussions, recitations, group work and more.

However, there’s more to speaking than just good pronunciation or diction. It also includes fluency, vocabulary and grammar, all of which come together to help the speaker relay information.

Additionally, good speaking beyond what you can hear — it also involves the use of non-verbal cues like eye contact, hand gestures and more.

Here are some ways to support the development of good speaking skills at home:

  • Give and receive meaningful feedback,
  • Demonstrate a variety of speaking techniques,
  • Share ideas and knowledge with your kids,
  • Give children opportunities to speak up at home or in public,
  • Encourage communication in different languages.

Writing

Like speaking, writing is a way to express our thoughts and ideas. However, while speaking can be informal, writing often requires more technical skills. This is especially true in the classroom, where students have to write in a variety of formats such as essays, papers, short stories and more.

It’s also important for students to understand the purpose of what they’re writing and how to relay their message effectively.

To help students develop good writing skills, parents can:

  • Show examples of different writing formats, 
  • Provide a variety of rich reading material, such as books, newspapers and more,
  • Ask children to write for a variety of purposes and audiences,
  • Give constructive feedback on written output,
  • Teach your child how to find and organise information online.

Listening

Have you ever heard someone say that they’re a really good listener? It may not seem that exciting — but listening is an important communication skill for students to master.

Listening is not only about hearing; rather, it’s about being able to interpret the information being shared to enhance your understanding.

To boost your child’s listening skills, you can:

  • Do tasks together that involve listening, such as cooking or gardening,
  • Model active listening — show that you are listening to what they say,
  • Ask questions and encourage them to do the same,
  • Have conversations about things they are interested in.

Reading

More than just the act of reading, this skill is about using and interacting with language to gather information. It involves closely related sub skills such as grammar, vocabulary, phonics, memory and comprehension, which strongly impact a child’s experience at school.

Reading is also the foundation of information literacy, which is the ability to find, evaluate and use information effectively.

Here are some ways to help boost your child’s reading and comprehension skills:

  • Read stories with young children,
  • Offer a variety of reading materials (including online resources),
  • Have your child retell a story in their own words,
  • Ask older children about books they have read or are currently reading,
  • Discuss topics your children recently learned at school,
  • Teach your kids how to do research online and offline.

The good news is, these four basic skills are closely interrelated, so you don’t have to teach them one by one. For example, encouraging your child to read will have a positive impact on his or her speaking and writing skills.

Most importantly, the best way to teach these skills is to model good communication. This will transform the simplest moment into a learning opportunity for your child.

Why is communication important for students?

At any grade level, students must be able to communicate effectively with their teachers and peers. Good communication is linked to attentiveness and participation, which results in higher grades and better academic performance.

Children with well-developed communication skills are more likely to speak up, ask questions, and take initiative in class discussions and projects. They may also find it easier to work with their classmates and are more likely to become good collaborators and leaders.

In short, practising good communication at home can help your child do better at school and long after. So how can you start teaching communication skills to your child?

5 tips for teaching communication skills at home

  1. Talk to your child often.
    Having conversations with your child is the best way to develop their speaking and listening skills. Keeping your communication lines open also helps create a safe and supportive environment where your child feels comfortable to express his or her feelings.
  1. Model active listening. This means listening attentively and paying close attention to what your child is saying. Let your child know that you are listening to them by asking questions or paraphrasing what he or she just said. This teaches your child how to listen to others and hold respectful conversations.
  2. Do things together. Cooking or cleaning may seem like basic household chores, but they are fantastic for improving parent-child communication. For example, cooking teaches your child to read instructions carefully, listen for your feedback, use their words effectively and ask for help when needed.
  3. Give meaningful feedback. Giving feedback is a great way to improve not only your child’s communication but also their social-emotional skills. When giving feedback, be specific and keep your tone positive. Words of encouragement, such as “great job!” can also go a long way in boosting your child’s confidence, which helps them become a better communicator.
  4. Try communication activities. Party games such as Charades are a great way to boost your child’s communication skills while having fun at home. Be creative — any activity that encourages communication is an opportunity for growth!

Communication activities for toddlers to teens

Whether you have a toddler or teen, there is always an opportunity for them to hone their communication and listening skills. Here are 16 exercises and activities to help your child become a more effective communicator:

Games and activities for kindergarten students

  • Show and Tell. Ask your child to pick their favourite toy and talk about why they love it so much. When they’re done, ask them a few questions, such as “How do you take care of your toys?” or “How would you feel if your toy got lost?” This helps develop their speaking skills while teaching them how to constructively express their emotions.
  • Pretend Play. Play is one of the primary ways in which young children learn, and it’s perfect for teaching good communication at home. All you have to do is play along! For example, when your child plays house, ask for a cup of coffee or some pretend groceries. This helps improve their speaking and listening skills naturally.
  • Bedtime Stories. More than just a way to bond with your kids, bedtime stories are fantastic for expanding your child’s vocabulary. When your child is ready, you can also ask them to read out loud with you. Use this time to explain the difference between shouting and speaking loudly, and why we should use a calm and polite tone when asking for help or attention.
  • Simon Says. This classic listening game can be played almost anywhere! The rules are simple: players have to obey any commands that begin with the phrase “Simon says.” If a player doesn’t follow that command, or they follow a command that doesn’t begin with “Simon says,” they’re eliminated — or you can set a fun penalty. The game doesn’t end until you say so, so your kids will need sharp listening skills as long as you’re playing!

Communication activities for kids in elementary school

  • Charades. This classic party game is the perfect way to develop non-verbal communication skills.

    To start, choose a category that is familiar to kids, such as animals, household activities or even emotions. As your kids improve, you can try other prompts or categories — resulting in more fun and creativity!
  • Building Bricks. Building a brick set with your child gives both of you the opportunity to practise good communication.

    As a parent, you can work on providing clear and simple instructions while your child learns how to listen and ask for clarification. Plus, it’s perfect for improving teamwork and collaboration.
  • Animal Pairs. In this game, players aren’t allowed to talk; they can only act or make sounds like the animal assigned to them.

    The objective of the game is to find your partner, who is another player assigned the same animal. Players are not allowed to ask questions or use any words, which leads to funny and creative interactions.

    For the best results, assign these animals: dog, cat, snake, horse, monkey, fish, bird.
  • Giving Directions. Does your child know how to get home? The next time you take a walk together, ask your child to give you directions back to your neighbourhood.

    As you walk back home, talk about how they can improve the directions they gave. For example, if they say to turn left at the white building, explain that it can be confusing if there are other white buildings along the road. This gives them an opportunity to practise effective and direct communication.

Communication activities for middle school students

  • Video Games. When you play video games with your kids, they’re not only spending time with you, they’re also practising how to give instructions, how to listen for cues, how to scan and analyse information and how to work with others effectively.

    If your child plays online games, it’s also a good opportunity to talk about Internet etiquette and safety. Talk about digital communication and the right ways to express themselves online.
  • Not My Arms. In this hilarious challenge, your child will “borrow” your arms! Choose a creative activity such as putting on makeup, making a playdough sculpture or decorating cookies. You’ll sit behind your child without seeing the items in front of them, while your child will give instructions and talk to the audience or camera.

    Because you can’t see anything, your child will have to be specific — and creative — in giving instructions. They’ll also get to practise their public speaking skills. The results may not be perfect, but the journey sure is fun!
  • Family Meetings. There are many good reasons to hold family meetings, which include making your kids feel heard and teaching them how to respect others.

    In a family meeting, everyone contributes their ideas and insights, giving your kids the opportunity to talk about matters that are important to them.

    Remember to model good communication by making eye contact, listening actively and not interrupting other family members. Over time, your child will adopt these skills and use them in other settings.

Activities and exercises for high school students

  • Practice Interviews. If your teen is worried about university admissions interviews, practising at home can help ease their fears. Look up some common interview questions to ask your teen.

    Let them answer the questions as they normally would, then give your feedback after. Don’t forget to give words of encouragement. This will boost their confidence while giving them specific pointers to work on.
  • PowerPoint Party. The next time your teen has a sleepover, why not host a PowerPoint Party? In this activity, everyone gets to present a topic they’re passionate about. It can be games, books, TV shows or anything under the sun.

    All you have to do is set a time limit for each speaker. Your teens will not only have fun; they’ll also get to practise researching, distilling information and presenting in front of an audience. They can also do this activity virtually.
  • Travel Planning. Want to boost your child’s research and digital communication skills? Try travel planning. Let them play a role in planning your next family vacation or ask them to make an itinerary for an upcoming trip with friends.

    This is a fantastic way to test their research and organisational skills as they gather tips, news and information from various sources.

    Let them present the itinerary to you and explain why they’ve chosen specific stops and activities.

How XCL World Academy develops communication skills in students

At XCL World Academy, we have developed a whole school ATL (approaches to learning) continuum where skills, such as communication, are taught within units of study. This ensures that our students are reaching key milestones throughout their schooling journey.

We collaborate across grades, faculties and divisions to determine not only which key communications skills need to be taught at each particular juncture but how. We also report on various ATLs, so students and their parents/guardians can better understand the level of progression and skill acquisition within a semester of work.

As an IB-continuum school, we strive to nurture students into good communicators — one of the attributes in the IB learner profile. Students are validated through teacher feedback and the issuance of house points when demonstrating this attribute around the campus. Teachers are expected to model all of the IB learner profile attributes and support each student’s development of these attributes through teachable moments.

Here are some ways our students develop communication skills at our school:

  • Give and receive meaningful feedback,
  • Use a variety of speaking techniques to communicate with a variety of audiences,
  • Use appropriate forms of writing for different purposes and audiences,
  • Interpret and use effectively modes of non-verbal communication,
  • Negotiate ideas and knowledge with peers and teachers,
  • Formulate questions to enhance understanding,
  • Demonstrate effective public speaking skills,
  • Write for a variety of purposes and audiences,
  • Read critically and for comprehension,
  • Read a variety of sources for information and for pleasure,
  • Make inferences and draw conclusions,
  • Use and interpret a range of discipline-specific terms and symbols,
  • Organise and depict information logically,
  • Structure information in summaries, essays and reports.

On top of these, we have an incredibly diverse community of teachers, students and staff, which means that students are exposed to a variety of rich languages and cultures.

We promote meaningful communication by encouraging students to share and celebrate their cultural identities. This sparks engaging discussions right in the classroom, where students are empowered to share their perspectives while acknowledging and respecting others.

Finally, students can learn a new language at school — a truly valuable skill in an increasingly connected world.

Ultimately, our goal is to develop students into capable, confident learners who are well-equipped for the future.

Learn more about how an IB education can help your child blossom into a skilled learner and communicator, contact our Admissions Team today.

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