Effective Communication Lessons for Elementary, Middle, and High School – Tuesday, Mar 24, 2020 update: Covid-19 is changing the way we teach. Are you teaching at a school which is still open? Chances are you want to prepare your students for distance learning. Help your students understand how to communicate better before they have to learn from home.
FYI: We’re working on revamping this page to help teachers teach and assess effective communication skills using distance learning. We’re also writing an article about HOW to teach distance learning lessons during Covid-19. Stay tuned by signing up for our newsletter.
Teaching students HOW to communicate effectively is important especially during distance learning and a world where Covid-19 is shutting down schools.
Everyone can communicate. Not everyone can communicate well.
Learning in the classroom can be tough. Online learning can be even tougher because you don’t have nonverbal language to to help you understand the message.
Teach your students the communication process to help them understand where their online conversations might be going wrong. Teach them the difference between assertive conversations and coming across as aggressive, passive-aggressive or passive.
This package does not contain any information, examples, or language specifically about the Coronavirus pandemic.
And, that’s a good thing because that makes that makes this lesson package timeless. You can use this lesson today within the context of Covid-19, or you can use it in the future when the next obstacle appears.
Also, we don’t want to give your students outdated information. Nor do we want to potentially trigger anxiety by hyper-focusing on Covid-19. So, this package includes other examples for your students to explore communication skills.
Communication lesson plans give teachers effective communication process strategies to teach elementary, middle school, and high school students.
We need to provide our children and students with 21st-century competencies / transferable learning skills to enable them to cope with challenges in their personal and professional relationships.
And, even if you have communication lessons to help your students “communicate more effectively”, the real question is how do your students do when they’re angry, triggered, stressed out, or in some other tough conversation?
A lesson plan for communication skills needs to go over several things:
- How the communication process works
- Where communication breaks down (in the communication process)
- Communication strategies to help get the message across and to double/check the message gets across
- Different communication styles in tough conversations: Assertive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, and Passive
(Oh, and by the way – communication is different from collaboration. And while we’re at it, collaboration and teamwork do not always mean the same thing! Read this page about collaboration skills to find out the difference!)
Communication Lesson Plans during Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting learning in different ways around the world. Social distance requires us to find creative ways to teach students were not physically in the same classroom as us. We call this distance-learning or distance education.
Bottom line? It means adapting and modifying our lesson plans to be effective using online learning tools.
Communication clearly is tough.
Communicating clearly when you can’t read nonverbal signals can be even tougher.
We need to explicitly teach our students about the communication process so they can be aware of how their message might be perceived by the other person – especially in an online environment.
Over the next few days, this lesson plan will be adapted and include suggestions on how you could teach or modify these communication activities so they work in the classroom or through an online learning tool.
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Table of Contents:
- Who can benefit from Communication Lesson Plans?
- Understanding how to communicate effectively requires an understanding of the communication process
- Strategies on how to communicate effectively
- Strategies on how to be assertive during tough conversations
- KEY CONCEPTS
- Effective Communication CHAPTER BIG IDEA:
- Get 2 weeks of COMMUNICATION learning skills lesson plans
- Who are these Communication Lesson Plans for?
- SAMPLE TWO WEEK GAME PLAN: (12 COMMUNICATION LESSON PLANS )
- Here’s what you get in the Communication Lesson Plans ZIPPED FILE
Who can benefit from Effective Communication Lesson Plans?
Learning how to communicate effectively is a skill that anyone (and everyone) can work on.
This is actually a pretty big deal. School is kind of an artificial institution. We talk about oral communication and being effective communicators … and then focus on things like presentation skills:
- Do you have eye contact
- How is your body language?
- Do you have any distracting visual or verbal noises… um… ah… er…
- Can we hear you clearly?
- Are you speaking too quickly?
But, lessons about communication need to focus on more than just presentation skills or active listening skills.
We communicate with people all the time. From our conversations with family, to our emails with our co-workers and other team members, to social media exchanges.
The real question is how do you communicate effectively in tough conversations when you both want different things, or you’re both mad…
Although these communication lesson plans were developed initially with middle school students in mind, they can be modified or adapted for:
- Elementary students
- High school students
- Home-schooled students
- Small business human resources training
- Large corporation human resources training
Adapting these Communication Lesson Plans for Elementary students
Younger students in the primary grades are more ego-centric, so of course, teachers will need to modify and simplify the language or examples. But the concepts around clear communication are still the same.
Suggestions for younger students:
- Focus on having students recognize the 4 parts of commuication: Are they the sender of the message? Are they the receiver of the message? What was the message? How do I know the message was received?
- Recognize that when we communicate, there are many parts in a message. There are the words themselves, but also, our tone, our body language, our facial expression. These all impact how we are heard.
Adapting these Communication Lesson Plans for High School / Adult learners
To be completely fair, these concepts about assertive and clear communication are equally valid for high school and adult learners, as they are for elementary students.
But, of course, no high school student or adult wants to hear that they don’t communicate well. After all, when there’s a break down in communication, it’s the other person’s fault.
While that may be true, we need to recognize that by using specific strategies:
- We may be able to be more assertive (and protect our boundaries), or
- we may accept have to accept that this issue isn’t worth fighting over, or
- we may have to walk away because this issue is a deal breaker for us.
Teaching communication skills to high school students is important to help build healthy relationships – whether we’re looking at personal relationships or work place relationships.
Suggestions for Adult / High School learners:
- Place the context first: The end goal is to learn how to communicate more effectively during tough conversations where both parties are emotionally triggered and the conversation is about a life-or-death issue. (Is anything at work truly life-or-death? Maybe, but you know what I mean.)
- Have fun with the activities in the first part – acknowledge that they’re simplistic, but prove a point by isolating specific components of communication in an extreme way. (Yes, we’ll never have to describe a drawing to someone else in a different room, but what can we learn about communicating clearly, anyway? How could we communicate better in a way that gets the message across?)
- Focus on the workplace video examples. You can be assertive and do everything right sometimes… and still not get your point across. Then, what?
- Spend more time looking at communication styles – being assertive is tough.
Understanding HOW to communicate effectively requires an understanding of the communication process
There are 4 basic parts in the communication process. You need:
- A sender
- A receiver
- The message, and
Watch this short YouTube video to get a better understanding of How Communication Works: https://youtu.be/3AYdHzUVmZY
This communication process lesson plan provides a framework for students to analyze how to communicate more effectively by thinking about where things go wrong.
- Did I send the message unclearly?
- Did I send the message well, but was there noise that messed the message up?
- Was the message sent well, but the receiver didn’t understand the message – maybe because of a hidden bias or stereotype?
- Did I send the message clearly and it was received correctly, but maybe there simply wasn’t any feedback to let me know one way or another?
Strategies on how to communicate effectively
As a middle school teacher, I used to mark oral communication based on things like how much a student participated in the conversation, or shared ideas to the group.
But, actually, an effective communication process is more than just talking.
You can talk or write and still be ineffective if the other person doesn’t understand your message clearly.
Just because you send the message doesn’t mean the other person received the message or understood what you meant.
Being effective at communication is a cornerstone of so much in life. Our students need to know:
- How to communicate more clearly in their personal relationships (with friends, authority figures, parents, classmates, and random strangers)
- How to communicate effectively regardless of the medium – whether it’s oral communication, written communication, non-verbal communication or digital communication
- That communicating effectively is a learned skill. Some of us might pick up these skills more than others, and not even realize what we’re doing.
- If we have a growth mindset, then we can realize that we can try certain techniques to communicate more clearly. (Read this article about why we need a growth mindset.)
Strategies on how to be assertive during tough conversations
Explicit instruction of different communication styles can help our students to reflect on what their default personal communication style is, and decide if that helps them to protect their boundaries and to get what they want.
We need strategies on how to be more assertive during tough conversations, and not just be aggressive, or passive-aggressive, or just plain passive.
We need to be able to give our students criteria about the differences in communication styles so they can reflect and shift strategies, depending on the situation.
Being assertive doesn’t mean you have to stand your ground on every single issue. Sometimes, we can choose not to argue/negotiate over every little issue with our team members, as long as those issues don’t cross our personal limits and boundaries.
Sometimes students will communicate in a group and participate, but that doesn’t mean they have effective communication strategies.
- Are they aggressively taking control of the conversation, making sure their points are heard and their ideas are implemented?
- Do they simply agree with everything and go with the flow even though they know it’s not a good idea – but they’re afraid of conflict?
- How often do they disagree with an idea on the inside but because they don’t want to directly confront the other person, they just find a passive-aggressive way to move slowly on the issue (in silent protest) Or, maybe they’re grumbling behind people’s backs?
Just because a team gets something done, doesn’t mean there was true collaboration.
Just because a group of students talks with each other, doesn’t mean there is effective communication happening…
Group work doesn’t always mean people are communicating clearly or effectively, and if we can show our students the difference between effective and ineffective communication, we can help them to become better communicators.
Effective communication lesson plans for Elementary, Middle, and High School students: KEY CONCEPTS:
In this package, we provide over 2 weeks of effective communication lessons to do with your class.
Communication is about imparting or exchanging information. It’s not just oral communication lessons that we have to think about.
We also need to teach students that communicating clearly and communicating assertively in tough conversations is NOT always easy, but we can improve by using strategies!
It’s one thing to tell someone something. But, when you’re arguing, are they really listening to you?
Here are four key concepts to include in Effective Communication Lessons:
1. There are four basic parts to communication
- A sender (who encodes a message),
- A receiver (who decodes the message)
- The message itself (which can be verbal, non-verbal, visual, digital, etc.)
- And feedback from the receiver (which gives the sender information about how well the message was received, if at all.)
2. There are four communication styles in tough conversations
A tough conversation is where both people want different things, and the issue is important to both parties.
Communication is easy if both players want the same thing. Things get tough when we want different things.
Then the question becomes how effectively can we communicate our needs and our boundaries so that we get what we want, but also protect our personal boundaries.
There are 4 communication styles in difficult conversations:
3. We can use communication strategies to be more clear and assertive.
Communication can break down at different parts or because we have different perspectives that affect the way we interpret messages. Strategies can help us overcome miscommunication. They are building blocks that we use to get our message across or to achieve our goals when we communicate with others.
In this package, we:
- Explore communication through 11 different activities and discuss where communication breaks down, and what strategies might help to communicate more clearly.
- Explore the difference between assertive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and passive behaviour, and apply our understanding to multiple scenarios.
- Introduce students to the 4 basic parts of communication through a short video.
- Explore assertive / passive scenarios through video clips.
- Allow for deeper exploration of the concept of “Communication” by playing with the term using a graphic organizer (the Frayer Model of understanding.)
4. We can change the way we communicate
This is the idea behind a growth mindset – that through effort and strategies, we can improve. Effective communication is not something are born knowing how to do. It’s a skill that we can nurture and develop over time.
Effective Communication CHAPTER BIG IDEA:
After this chapter, students will be able to explain that Communication is about:
- A sender encoding a message to a receiver who decodes the message and then provides some feedback.
- Assertive behaviour is when you protect your boundaries, but also respectfully consider the other person’s point of view and try to come up with a solution that works for everyone (but doesn’t compromise your personal limits.)
- People with different lived experiences / cultural background will interpret the same message differently. We need to consider local and global perspectives when communicating.
Students will have the opportunity to:
- EXPERIENCE classroom activities to explore how communication breaks down
- WATCH examples of communication where people are assertive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, or passive and analyze the situations to come up with alternatives.
- UNDERSTAND what “collaboration” is by using a vocabulary building graphic organizer (Frayer model) to brainstorm features of collaboration, examples and non-examples of collaborating with others, and finally narrow down essential characteristics of the word.
Get TWO weeks of EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION LESSON PLANS:
We communicate all the time, but students don’t always understand HOW to communicate more clearly or HOW to be ASSERTIVE and protect their personal boundaries.
So, we’ve put together OVER 2 WEEKS of lesson plans to do with your class to help your students understand how communication works (sender, receiver, message, feedback), how communication breaks down, and how to communicate more ASSERTIVELY by using strategies during tough conversations.
YOU GET 455 SLIDES / PAGES in 12 LESSONS.
- 256 slides in POWERPOINT and GOOGLE SLIDE format
- 97 page lesson plan PDF with 12 DIFFERENT lessons (45-55 min each.)
- 2 page graphic organizer to analyze debate questions (HANDOUT + sample answer key)
- 2 page Vocabulary Building Graphic Organizer and Venn diagram (HANDOUT + sample answer key)
- 1 page Communication Learning Skills SELF-EVALUATION handout
- 2 page Communication Review Assessment – What did you learn? (6 short answer questions + sample answer key.)
We just saved you an incredible amount of prep work!
And the slides and handouts look legit good. Just sayin’.
Who are these Effective Communication Lesson Plans for?
Teachers could use these lessons about communication to introduce the concept that communication is a skill. And, we can choose to use strategies to communicate more clearly.
- Do this package in the first month of class, to set the gold standard ideal for what good communication looks like.
- Throughout the year, when students are having tough moments, you could explore whether they were being assertive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, or passive and this becomes a framework to help them communicate more clearly, especially when they’re in conflict or upset.
English Language Arts teachers (English teachers / ESL / ELL teachers)
- Reading Lesson – Reading notes about 4 communicate styles and using criteria to come up with assertive responses. (Activity 11)
- Writing Lesson – Creating memes (Activity 9) and assertive responses (Activity 11)
- Oral Communication Lesson– (Activity 1-11)
- Express meaning in multiple ways
- Ask questions or listen actively
- Verbal communication
- Non-Verbal communication
- Visual communication
- Clearly express yourself
- Respect different perspectives – local / global
- Media Literacy Lesson– inferring meaning from emojis and memes (Activity 9) and inferring communication styles and meaning from videos (Videos 2-8)
- Bloom’s Taxonomy – students get a chance to:
- List communication strategies and communication styles. (REMEMBER)
- Explain communication styles (UNDERSTAND)
- Watch new videos / scenarios and justify which communication style is predominant (APPLY)
- Compare / contrast different communication styles (ANALYZE)
- Justify an opinion by appraising the evidence supporting and against a specific communication style for a given video (EVALUATE)
- Some students will create a deep understanding (ah-ha moment) about the subtle differences between the 4 communication styles (CREATE)
School leaders / admin
Principals, Admin, Division Leaders) could use this package in their schools to create a common language and exploration of growth mindset.
- This unit provides a systematic way for a grade, division, or school to explore learning skills / character development as a framework for delivering curriculum.
- Communication is often taken for granted. If all students are exposed to this framework, it makes it easier for teachers and students to try to be more assertive and to communicate more clearly.
- Doing the same (Frayer model) vocabulary building graphic organizer provides a common tool / framework that students and teachers can build around in other areas (i.e. math concepts, grammar concepts, science concepts, etc).
Ultimately, this chapter is meant to kick off a year / lifetime of discussion, as opposed to being a one-off activity.
- If all classes start off with the same approach, then throughout the year, as teachers do different activities, you could still connect it back to concepts of communication.
- During group work, students could be asked if they are being assertive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, or passive. Which strategy might help them to better communicate and get the learning done?
SAMPLE TWO WEEK LESSONS about Communication: (12 EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION LESSON PLANS)
We base this schedule on a 50 minute period and provide around 40-45 minutes of content per lesson. Depending on your teaching style, how often you see your class, and class dynamics, you may find that you can get through all 12 lessons in 10 days… or it stretches out to a month.
TEACHER PRO TIPS:
- If you’re short on time: pick and choose which communication games to do with your class, and which videos to watch.
- Watch the video yourself about the Four Basic Parts of Communication to get an idea of where the unit is going in terms of Sender, Receiver, Message, and Feedback. This way you can paraphrase student answers from this perspective to help them make connections later on:
- In Part 1, we have 11 different ice breakers / activities that highlight different aspects of communication.
OPTION 1: Do all of the ice breakers / communication games in a row
- Thereby developing classroom spirit and finding patterns in communication.
OPTION 2: Do one or two icebreakers / communication games each day
- Each class could start with a different icebreaker each day before getting into some of the more complex and deep conversations around communication styles (assertive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, passive)
- By spreading it out, it’s not like they’re learning a bunch of games in one day.
THE BIG LIST of EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION LESSON PLANS / ACTIVITIES
Here are 11 different communication activities and communication games for students to explore how communication works and why it breaks down.
If we understand the communication process, and problems with communication, we can reflect on how we can improve communication so it doesn’t break down (and the message gets across clearly.)
- Who Am I (Express meaning in multiple ways, ask questions, listen actively, verbal communication) – oral communication lesson
- Charades (Express meaning in multiple ways, non-verbal communication)
- Pictionary (Express meaning in multiple ways, visual communication)
- Taboo (Express meaning in multiple ways, verbal communication) – oral communication lesson
- Follow the Leader (Express meaning in multiple ways, non-verbal communication)
- Counting Numbers (“Listen” actively to understand what is communicated, non-verbal communication)
- Twenty Questions (Express meaning in multiple ways, ask questions / listen actively; verbal communication)
- Describe the Drawing (Express meaning in multiple ways, ask questions / listen actively; clearly express yourself; verbal communication)
- Metaphors and Symbols. Memes and Emojis. (Express meaning in multiple ways, express yourself; written communication, virtual spaces)
- What’s your style? (Express meaning in multiple ways, ask questions / listen actively; clearly express yourself; respect different perspectives; verbal communication)
- Strategies to be Assertive / Practice being assertive (Express meaning in multiple ways, ask questions / listen actively; clearly express yourself; respect different perspectives; verbal communication)
PART 1. EXPERIENCE
DAY / LESSON 1 (50 min) Communication Games for Students/Activities Part 1 (slides 1-20)
- Introduction of communications (slides 1-5) – 5 min
- Communication Game #1 Who am I (slides 6-10) – 15 min
- Communication Game #2 Charades (slides 11-15) – 15 min
- Communication Game #3 Pictionary (slides 16-20) – 15 min
DAY / LESSON 2 (45 min) Communication Games for Students/Activities Part 2 (slides 21 – 34)
- Communication Game #4 Taboo (slides 21-25) – 15 min
- Communication Game #5 Follow the leader (slides 26-29) – 15 min
- Communication Game #6 Counting numbers (slides 30-34) – 15 min
DAY / LESSON 3 (45 min) Communication Games for Students/Activities Part 3 (slides 35 – 52)
- Communication Game #7 Twenty Questions (slides 35-39) – 15 min
- Communication Game #8 Describe the Drawing (slides 40-52) – 30 min
- Round 1 (slide 40-45)
- Round 2 (slide 46-48)
- Round 3 (slide 49-50)
- Round 4 (slide 51-52)
DAY / LESSON 4 (50 min) Communication Games for Students/Activities Part 4 (slides 53 – 85)
- Communication Activity #9 Part 1: Metaphors and Symbols (slides 53 – 63) – 20 min
- Introduction (slides 53-54)
- What is a metaphor (slides 55-60)
- What is a symbol? (slides 61-63)
- Emojis (slides 64-71) – 10 min
- Meme (slide 72-85) – 20 min
- What is a meme? (slide 72-76)
- Explain the Meme: Success Kid (slide 77)
- Explain the Meme: Jack Sparrow Being Chased (slide 78-81)
- Explain the Meme: Grumpy Cat (slide 82-85)
DAY / LESSON 5 (45 min) Communication Games for Students/Activities Part 5 (slides 86 – 89)
- Communication Activity #9 Part 2: Create your own meme (slide 86-89) – 45 min
DAY / LESSON 6 (50 min) Communication Games for Students/Activities Part 6 (slide 90 – 152)
- Communication Activity #10 What’s your style? (slide 90-115) – 20 min
- Communication Activity #11 Styles of Communication (slide 116 – 152) – 30 min
DAY / LESSON 7 (50 min) Communication Games for Students/Activities Part 7 (slides 153 – 170)
- Strategies to be assertive / practice (slide 153 -170) 50 min
- Review assertive communication style (slide 153-159)
- Strategies (slides 160-169)
- Practice handout (slide 170)
PART 2. WATCH
DAY / LESSON 8 (50 min) Videos Part 1 (slides 171 – 187)
- Video 1 How we communicate (slide 171 – 175) 25 min
- Minds on – What are the different parts of communications (slide 171-173) – 5 min
- Watch video – identify 4 parts of communication (slide 174-176) – 10 min
- How could communication break down (slide 177 – 178) – 5 min
- What could you do to prevent communication break down (slide 179) – 5 min
- Review (slides 180-181) – 5 min
- Video 2 Back to the Future (slide 182-187) – 20 min
DAY / LESSON 9 (55 min) Videos Part 2 (slides 188 – 216)
- Video 3 Passive Aggression (slide 188-189) 15 min
- Video 4 Office Space (slide 190 – 206) 20 min
- Watch the video / discussion – 5 min
- Scenario A – 5 min
- Scenario B – 5 min
- Scenario C – 5 min
- Strategies when life is hard (slide 207 – 216) 15 min
DAY / LESSON 10 (60 min) Videos Part 3 (slides 217 – 233)
- Communicating differences (slide 217 – 233) 60 min
- Video 5 Wrong Flower (slides 219 – 222) 15 min
- Video 6 Golf (slide 223 – 226) 15 min
- Video 7 Eels (slide 227 – 230) 15 min
- Video 8 Live Theatre Point of View (slide 231 – 233) 15 min
PART 3. UNDERSTAND
DAY / LESSON 11 (40 min) Vocabulary Builder (slides 234 – 250)
- Introduce Part 3 / Minds on (slides 234 – 236)
- Understand (Vocabulary Builder) (slide 237 – 238)
- Filling out the graphic organizer (slides 239 – 242)
- Revising graphic organizer (slides 243-247)
- Summary (slides 248-250)
DAY / LESSON 12 – Self Evaluation / Review 40 minutes total Self Evaluation / Review – (slides 251-256)
- Student Self Evaluation (slide 251-255) – 10 min
- Chapter Review Test (slide 256) – 30 min
HERE’S WHAT YOU GET when you download the zipped file:
THE READ ME file in the PREVIEW file section tells you exactly what you get when you buy this product.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below!
We provide handouts:
- 5 handout packages of different activity cards: Who am I, Charades, Pictionary, Taboo, Copy this Drawing
- Create-your-own meme activity handout
- “What’s your Communication style?” student survey
- 3 DIFFERENTIATED versions of a communication styles handout + answer key
- “Practice being Assertive” handout + answer key
- Vocabulary Builder graphic organizer (to develop a deeper understanding of what Communication means.)
- Student Self Evaluation of their “Communication” Learning Skill
- Chapter Review assessment and answer key of possible answers
We provide 3 different versions of the lesson slideshow (256 slides):
- A link to the Google Slideshow so you can show it right away. (Get started in seconds!)
- A link to a version of the Google Slideshow that you can make a copy of the presentation. (Edit the content to fit your exact classroom needs.)
- A powerpoint file that you can download (PPTX) and modify. (Edit the presentation to fit your needs, and use the presentation when the internet is down!)