The Purpose of Communication

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As I reflected on last year, I felt like we had lots of successes as a class. Students made great progress with their reading and writing skills. Their ability to communicate had come a long way, and I felt like they were able to have small group conversations with minimal support. I had started to see students transfer some of the social and emotional learning we were doing into their everyday lives. It was exciting to hear a student talk about how he had told himself he should be flexible when his dad’s work schedule changed and he couldn’t take him to the movies. I realized that what I really wanted for the next school year was for students to be able to say that they had taken the things they learned and applied them to their everyday lives.


I knew some of the social and emotional skills were transferring, but I wasn’t so sure about some of the other skills we were working on. Were they making sense of what they were reading at home and truly enjoying the process? Were they able to communicate their thinking about a text? Could they argue their position about a family matter and support it with evidence?

I realized that the reason kids were able to use the social and emotional skills at home was that we had spent a lot of time talking about why they would want to use them. Why is it helpful to be flexible in some situations? Why would we want to be persistent with a task? Knowing the why meant they could apply the skill to any situation.

So often I have a purpose in mind for a lesson, project, or discussion, but fail to share it with students. I decided I wanted to make a real effort this year to make the purpose of all our work clear to students. When we began to discuss communication in September, I made sure that we had several discussions about the reasons why people communicate. We read Communication by Aliki, and talked about how people communicate, and why they communicate. 

Over the course of a few days, we talked about what oral, written, and physical communication are. We practiced physically communicating with each other by acting out different emotions. “Show your partner you’re scared. Show them you’re sleepy.” As you might expect, they loved this!

The “why” part of the chart took longer to talk about, and we’re still adding to it. Whenever we find a new reason why someone needs to communicate, we add it to the list. We also revisit the list periodically to remind ourselves why we’re discussing something. See attached picture of chart

So far I feel like knowing the purpose of communication has made them more invested in their conversations. It has set a foundation for all other oral language work we will do this year.






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