Activities to Improve Students' Verbal Communication Skills

6 Activities to Improve Students' Verbal Communication Skills | Remedia Publications
After reading the article, "My Students Don’t Know How to Have a Conversation" from The Atlantic, we were inspired to gather some activities you can use to improve your students’ verbal communication skills.   

In the article about one teacher’s concerns regarding how on-screen communication had diminished his students’ engagement and abilities in “real-time talk,” Paul Barnwell says, I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single-most overlooked skill we fail to teach students.”  So let us help you work on this oh-so-important life skill with your students. 

We’d also like to preface this by saying, we don't think you should throw out technology and digital devices altogether (read this post about real-world activities that support your curriculum)! Allow for a balance; electronic devices have a lot to offer (see Teach Me and Call Me below).  

Feed Me
This messy game is fun and will get your students communicating and improving their ability to give instructions. You’ll need three participants. Blindfold one person; this person is the “feeder.” The second person will be fed. The third person will give the blindfolded “feeder” instructions on how to manage to get a spoonful of peanut butter, pudding, or applesauce into the other person’s mouth. We recommend that you play this game outside and while wearing a smock. 

Teach Me 
Believe it or not, kids do actually know a few things that adults don’t. Have your kids teach you something like how to play that new game they’re obsessed with playing, whether it's an app, computer game, video game, or board game. Encourage them to teach you verbally, not just show you how they play. They may struggle at first to gather their words and thoughts, so ask lots of questions. In the end, your child will have gained some valuable communication skills and you'll have a new game to play together.  

Hire Me 
Your older students are probably already thinking about getting a weekend job, and they’ll need good communication skills to land the part-time job they are hoping for. So give them lots of practice. Some of the most common interview questions are sometimes hard for adults who have been to a lot of interviews, so prepare students by having students write their answers to these questions <free download> on a piece of paper. Then conduct an “interview” with each student. Use their answers to the questions as a “resume” so you that know what job they are applying for, as well as to help you ask off-the-cuff questions. Plus, you'll be able to assess their verbal communication skills versus their written skills. You could also have students pair-up and interview each other.  

Call Me
Little ones love to play “phone.” Give them an old phone and they’ll talk for hours to no one about anything. So why not take this game of pretend to your eight-year-old or even 14-year-old students.  With your younger students, try using the phone face-to-face. Start with, the basics: Hello. Who am I speaking with? How are you?  And move on to open-ended questions. What will you have for lunch today? Who do you eat lunch with? Is he/she your best friend? Why is he/she your best friend? How did you meet?  

For your older students, use real phones to call each or have students call each other in class from across the room. Give them a few things that they must find out about the person they are speaking to. This will get them thinking about questions to ask while also get them talking and answering questions.  Require them to spend at least 5-10 minutes on the phone.  Challenge them! The pair of students who find out the most information about each other in 10 minutes wins! Use this free phone topics download. 

Follow Me
This game is great for whole-class participation. Your students will love playing this twist on Follow the Leader while working on their communication skills. First choose one person to be blindfolded (or not)—this person could be you. Have the blindfolded person stand at the front of the classroom. Put an object like a ball at the back of the classroom, on the floor or in a drawer, which could create some complexity to this game. Have each student in the class take turns giving one instruction to the blind-folded person that helps them get closer to picking up the object in the back of the room.  For example, Student 1: take two steps forward; Student 2: there’s a desk in front of you, so side step twice to the left; Student 3: take four small steps forward…and so on. 

Guess Me
Have students bring in a Show and Tell item inside a paper bag or box. Have each student present their item by giving clues as to what is inside their box without telling what is actually inside the box.  For example: I got this object on my summer vacation to Seattle.  After we went to the very top of a very famous, tall building my mom let me buy one souvenir, and I chose this...  At the end of each presentation, allow the class to make guesses. Depending on their communication skills, the guessing may or may not be successful. 

Similarly, you could play 21-Questions. Each student gets a turn asking a “yes” or “no” question (so the game could be 32-Questions if you have 32 students) of the student who is presenting his/her item. At the end, students use the clues to guess what the presenter has brought for Show and Tell.

Try our Personal Development for Success: Communication & Problem-Solving book for additional resources and activities.

Do you find students' verbal communication skills diminishing? How do you work on these skills?