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Lesson 3: Communicating with Students

Talking with Students

It is important that when we talk with students we are engaging in certain behaviors that facilitate openness and acceptance. When we actively use the recommendations listed below, students tend to be more receptive to listening and communicating with us. Here are some suggestions to use while communicating with students:

1. Posture:
Try to make your posture mirror that of the students. It is helpful to have your shoulders squared with the student's and on about the same level so you are face-to-face. It is also helpful to have a slightly forward lean toward the student.

2. Eye Contact:
Eye contact with students shows that you are interested in what they have to say.

3. Facial Expression:
What is shown on your face should match what is on the child's. Smiling when the child is obviously sad would be an example of an incongruent facial expression.

4. Distance:
Distance from the child shouldn't be too close or too distant; about 3 to 4 feet is the average. Standing too close can make the student uncomfortable, while standing too far away can indicate that you are disinterested in what the students is saying.

5. Distracting Behaviors:
Distracting behaviors, such as playing with your hands, staring out the window, or doing something else while listening should be eliminated when talking to students or staff members.

6. Voice Quality:
Your tone should match the child's. It would be inappropriate to be loud if the child is in a quiet mood.

A few more helpful hints:

  1. Establish a positive relationship with the students (respect, courtesy, friendship)

  2. Our job is to encourage students rather than to control.

  3. Be positive in speaking to the students, avoid "putting them down."

  4. When possible, organize ahead of time and think before speaking.

  5. Use the student's name.

  6. When giving directions, get the student's attention first.

  7. Speak in a calm manner.

  8. Try to maintain eye contact with the student.

  9. Minimize distractions.

  10. Let them know why the topic is important.

  11. Let them know that you are talking to them for their benefit.

  12. Use questions to involve the student and monitor understanding.

  13. Include examples from the student's experience.

  14. Avoid discussing a student's personal problems when you feel uncomfortable about it.

  15. If frustration, anger, or boredom occurs, stop,.

  16. Reinforce and support students for listening.

Accepting Language

Acceptance of another is an important factor in fostering a relationship where a person can grow and actualize their full potential. At times, young people become what adults around them continuously tell them they are. Adults seem to think that if we accept a child where they are at, they may not make the changes to become better in the future. Therefore, if one conveys unacceptance, the child is more likely to change. Just the opposite is true.

A language of acceptance can open kids up and make them feel more comfortable and at ease. When they know we will accept them no matter what they tell us, we are more likely to see growth. When we communicate in an accepting way, we are using a tool that can facilitate positive effects in students.

"Talk can cure, and talk can foster constructive change. But is must be the right kind of talk."

-Thomas Gordon, T.E.T.

Initiating and Directing Student Responses

As educators, we ask questions of students on a daily basis. As with any form of communication, the way the question is phrased will affect the quality and type of answer we will receive. The purpose of asking questions to gain information from others. These are called information seeking questions. Other questions may provide information and direct the student to answer in a certain way, or they may clarify or confirm information.

Most of the questions asked of students are direct questions and a specific answer is required. For example,"Can you tell me the answer to #1". This form of question is interrogative and is usually a closed answer question where the student is looking for a specific answer. Questions used to encourage thought and opinion are open ended questions and usually indicate to the student to express a whole range of thoughts.

In order to effectively ask questions of students, the following suggestions are listed.

  1. Pause effectively before and after asking a question

    Pausing before you ask a question gives you time to phrase your question. Pausing after you ask your question allows the student to think about their response.

  2. Monitor questioning interactions

    What types of questions do you ask? Do you ask closed questions when what you really wanted was for the student to elaborate on his or her answer?

  3. Meaningful questions

    Monitor how many questions you ask, and the types of questions. Could you make questioning more effective if you asked less questions, more questions, or different types of questions?

  4. Check for Understanding

    It is important that we monitor students' understanding. To check if a student understands what was communicated, ask the student to repeat directions, questions or summarize what was said.

By becoming a more effective questioner, you are providing opportunities for students to more openly respond and relay their thoughts. This promotes students to be more reflective and provides situations for them to actively become involved in their learning. By learning more about your style of questioning you will become more effective when asking questions .

Paraeducator Self-Evaluation Form

Below is an activity you can do on your own to reflect on your communication style. This does not need to be submitted. Read each statement carefully and reflect on how they relate to your communication abilities. Respond by marking on the rating scale, with 1 being low and 5 being high, how well you perform each of the skills listed.
Communication Skill Rating
1. Rapport with students54321
2. Communication with supervising teacher 5 4 3 2 1
3. Communication with other staff members 5 4 3 2 1
4. Communication with parents of children 5 4 3 2 1
5. Cooperation with administration 5 4 3 2 1
6. Friendliness and cooperativeness 5 4 3 2 1
7. Accepts constructive criticism 5 4 3 2 1
8. Adheres to ethical standards 5 4 3 2 1
9. Self control in stress situations 5 4 3 2 1