Interpersonal Communication Ideas

Before I start with activities and ideas for students to do to communicate with each other, let’s look at what interpersonal communication looks like in the classroom.  The Ohio Department of Education has done an amazing job at explaining the process and the dimensions of interpersonal communication.  If you have time, I highly recommend you read it.  

Ohio Department of Education

What I really want to take note of is that interpersonal communication is SPONTANEOUS by all parties involved.  Afterall, isn’t real language in the real word spontaneous by nature? YES! It is. So what can we do as classroom language teachers to provide opportunities for students to participate in this type of communication?  Here are some ideas.  

ASL Improv – Give students a topic like going to the park or your first trip to Disneyland then have them talk.  I like to place students in random groups if I am shorter on time and partners if I have more time.  I have groups come to the front. I show them their topic and set a timer.  I have them chat until they run out of language or go off topic.  I then make it a competition to see which group can talk for the longest amount of time.  I give the winners a piece of candy or a free homework pass.  

Pretend You’re There – Show pictures of different places like a park, the zoo, the mall, etc. Pose the questions to students “Pretend you are there.”  This gives students the freedom to take the conversation where they want it to go.  It is not scripted nor is it limited.  To add some spice to the activity have the pictures cut into puzzle pieces and have students find their group by putting the puzzle together then talking about the location.

Free Chat Friday – Use Fridays to be a free conversation time.  Allow students the freedom to chat about what is on their mind.  This one takes more supervision and circulation on your part but it is always fun to see where students take the conversations.  

Movie Clip – Use media to engage students. Show a short movie clip and have students talk about what is happening. I like to use old black and white movies because I know they have not seen them. Have them discuss what they think happened just before, during and after.  Give them questions you want them to focus on like, “What is the storyline?” “Who are the main characters?”  If you don’t have access to movie clips, place a list of movies students are likely to have seen and have them give their opinion about the movie to each other.   

I find the interpersonal communication process a great way to start my class. I can have the prompt up when students come in and they can get right to the conversation with their elbow partner.  Or if you find you have 5 minutes left at the end of a class throw a prompt on the board and let them go for it.  We only have them for a short time so use the class time wisely and use every minute bell to bell.  

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