By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger
Students who develop communication skills learn more by asking better questions, can be open to more friendships, and will contribute to a safe classroom environment. Later in life, they will have better jobs, larger vocabularies, and be more open-minded. In today's blog post, I'll describe four reading comprehension activities that you can use to teach kids about communication.
Children often need help to understand the importance of respect and acceptance of others. The Cranes and the Peacock is a fable about a family of cranes that endures the rudeness of a beautiful peacock. This narrative text is useful to engage children about why it's important to treat everyone with respect. The dialogue provides many opportunities to help kids think about how to consider others' feelings before saying unkind things.
After reading this narrative text, you can ask students, "What do you want in a good friend?" List their responses on the board or screen. Provide paper for students to draw a good friend doing something kind. Then have them write about why the picture is that of a good friend. For oral language development, encourage students to share examples of what some good friends did that day or the day before. You can collect the drawings to make a book for your classroom library.
Animal Colorings is an informational text within The Cranes and the Peacock Theme Set that explains why certain animals have different colors. Review the idea that a basic need for animals is to defend itself to stay safe. Ask students to share with a neighbor how they stay safe. Elicit their responses and list them on the board or screen, and then say, “What part of your self do you use to stay safe? The animals in the book used their colors. What do you use?”
Give each child a copy of a graphic organizer with an idea web, similar to the example shown in the free Teacher's Guide for this nonfiction book for kids. Have students write body parts in the big circle so that they can write ways they use their body to stay safe in the smaller circles. Encourage students to talk about what they wrote, and if no one shares the mind or brain, talk to kids about the role of thinking to stay safe.
Children who struggle with communication can often be confused because they may not understand what is being said by others or cannot concentrate on the task at hand. Can You See the Sea? Words that Sound Alike is a fun leveled book that helps kids think critically about the meaning of what they hear or see as they practice reading. After reading this book, you can help kids with a graphic organizer similar to the T-chart in the free Teacher's Guide.
At the top of one column, use the label What I See or Hear, and label the other column What That Means. Work from the screen or overhead and invite students to share by asking, "What do you hear or see at home that gives you a message?” You can then ask for examples from school and other settings to include in the graphic organizer.
After the activity is completed, facilitate a discussion about why the ideas included in the T-chart were correct or incorrect. This will prompt word study that could help them make meaning of words during reading practice.
There are so many ways that humans communicate with and without words, and students need to understand that actions can speak louder than words. How Do Birds Communicate? is a leveled guided reading book that explains how birds communicate with living things around them. This book gives the teacher an excellent opportunity to help the students understand the importance of their facial and body movements without ever speaking.
After reading, you can use a T-chart with one column labeled Ways Birds Communicate and the other column labeled Ways We Communicate. Give kids time to respond with answers, such as listening, thinking about what is happening, looking at a speaker, and using arms and hands. Then invite students to demonstrate examples of good and bad body language. You could also talk to students about how the tone of voice can be used to communicate things.
For more ideas to help kids with communication skills, you can read Using Leveled Books to Help Students Develop Positive Behavioral Skills and What Does Good Listening Look Like? Be sure to visit our blog soon for more ideas to use in your classroom!
Dr. Geraldine Haggard is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent thirty-seven years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Dr. Haggard elsewhere on our blog.