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Tips & Tricks

Communications Skills

—Stephen Briggs

Your Communications skills contribute greatly to warm, accepting environment needed to effectively relate God’s Word to your students. Classroom communication is both nonverbal and verbal.

Nonverbal Skills

The meaning of any sentence can be altered completely by a change in facial expression, gesture or posture. To build good rapport be careful to give positive nonverbal messages.

  • Facial expressions. Develop the habit of smiling often during class— when you greet each child, while telling the Bible story, when observing or assisting a child with a learning activity. This will show the children you enjoy being with them.
  • Speak to the children at eye-level. They will know you are listening and want to hear what they have to say. Be careful not to hover over a child.
  • Use gestures that indicate acceptance. Try open hands rather than a closed hand or pointed finger. Nod your head as you listen. Lean forward to express interest when a child speaks to you.
  • A soft touch on the hand, a gentle pat on the back, an occasional hug—all say “I care about you.”

Verbal Skills

Communicate your acceptance of each child as an individual by your words.

  • Learn to accept the child’s feelings and ideas without judging. When ideas are incorrect or only partially true, guide the child to the appropriate answer by means of another question. Accepting the feelings of the child who is angry or unhappy is difficult. Use statements like, “I can tell you are unhappy because. . .” or, “I can see you are bored with. . .” Such statements indicate acceptance. They clarify what and why he is feeling that way. They help the child share his feelings with you so you can provide the guidance needed.
  • Give specific praise and encouragement. The child will feel good about himself, his attitudes and his work as you express appreciation for who he is. Be specific rather than general in your comments. Rather than saying, “That’s a great picture of a tree, Jimmy,” say, “I like the long limbs on your tree and the nice colors you made the leaves.” Look for attitudes and displays of character you can praise. Try to give each child some verbal encouragement during every class.
  • Stimulate two-way communication. If you do all the talking you will never know what the children know, think and feel. Discover their likes, dislikes and interests. Use open-ended questions requiring children to express their opinions and feelings rather than simply stating facts. Ask, “How do you feel about. . .” or, “What do you think would happen if. . . .”

Remember that verbal and nonver­bal messages need to be congruous.

Your job is not only to teach the Bible but also to teach kids! Regardless of the learner’s age you can relate biblical truths more effectively by using basic verbal and nonverbal communication skills.

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