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The nature of classroom communication: Chapter summary and references

Module by: Kelvin Seifert. E-mail the author

Summary: A summary of topics about classroom communication, including external links, a list of key terms, and a list of references used.

Chapter summary

Because communication in classrooms is more complex and unpredictable than in many other situations, it is important for teachers to understand its unique features and functions. It is helpful to think of classroom communication as serving a mixture of three purposes at once: content talk, procedural talk, and behavior control talk. It is also helpful to recognize that classroom communication has elements that are not only verbal, but also nonverbal and unintended.

To be effective in using verbal communication, teachers need to use appropriate instructional strategies related to content, such as using advance organizers, relating new information to prior knowledge, and organizing new information on behalf of students. It includes strategies that assist students to communicate, such as inquiry learning and cooperative learning. To communicate well about procedures and about the behaviors expected of students, teachers need a variety of management techniques, such as those discussed in Chapter 7 and summarized again in Table 2. To be effective in using nonverbal communication, teachers need to use appropriate eye contact, allow ample wait time between speaking turns, and be aware of the effects of social distance on students.

Structures of participation influence communication by facilitating particular patterns of speaking and listening, while at the same time making other patterns less convenient or disapproved. Four common participation structures are lectures, questions-and-answers, classroom discussions, and group work.

Key terms

Caring community

Class discussions

Collaborative group work

Communication

Content talk

Control talk

Eye contact

Lecture

Nonverbal communication

Participation structures

Procedural talk

Questions-and-answer

Register

Social distance

Student talk register

Teacher talk register

Unintended communication

Verbal communication

Wait time

On the Internet

<http://www.uu.edu/centers/faculty/resources/index.cfm?CatID=13> This URL offers tips for enhancing classroom communication. It is organized around ten basic topics (e.g. “Organizing Effective Discussions”) and focuses primarily on verbal communication. It is part of the more general website for Union University of Jackson, Tennessee.

<http://www.idea.ksu.edu/index.html> This website contains over 40 short papers (1-4 pages each) on a variety of topics, including many related to enhancing communication, but also some related to classroom organization and management in general. Some of the papers refer to college or university teaching, but many are quite relevant to public school teaching.

<http://www.fhsu.edu/~zhrepic/Teaching/GenEducation/nonverbcom/nonverbcom.htm>This website contains a thorough discussion of nonverbal communication—more detailed than possible in this chapter, and with photos and drawings to illustrate key points.

<http://www.responsiveclassroom.org/index.html>This website contains many resources, among which are articles about classroom management and communication, including nonverbal communication. It is intended strictly for public school teachers. Once you get to the homepage, click on their “Newsletter” for the articles.

References

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Burns, C. & Myhill, D. (2004). Interactive or inactive? A consideration of the nature of interaction in whole-class instruction. Cambridge Journal of Education, 34(1), 35-49.

Cazden, C. (2001). Classroom discourse: The language of teaching and learning, 2nd edition. Westport, CT: Heinemann.

Chami-Sather, G. & Kretschmer, R. (2005). Lebanese/Arabic and American children’s discourse in group-solving situations. Language and Education, 19(1), 10-22.

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