Classroom Communication Tools

Every class that I have ever taught, has always in turn, taught me something about myself, my teaching style, and ways to improve for the next year. Whether it is curriculum, or classroom management, there is ALWAYS room for improvement in my book!

One thing I am constantly tweaking is how I communicate with my students in the classroom.  Being only one person, and having anywhere from 20-36 students (depending on the grade level) it is so important that I have strong, positive communication tools in place.

I am not claiming to be an fact, the only thing that I am an expert at, is trying new things. :-)  However, I wanted to share some of the classroom communication tools that I have had great success with, and that have been very helpful in maximizing student learning time.

The first communication tool that I LOVE, and that has saved me tons of time in the classroom, is a set of Hand Signal Posters.  These posters are finger signs 0-5 all communicating a different message from the student to me. I display these at the front of the class (above my whiteboard) for a quick and easy reference for students. This way, if I am in the middle of a lesson, working with a small group, or helping an individual child, I can quickly see what a student needs to communicate with me.  BIG TIME SAVER!

Another tool that comes in handy while I'm working with a small group is the STOP sign.  It seems like as soon as I sit down to work with a group of students, five other students raise their hands with questions.

I have taught my students that if I am displaying this sign (I put magnetic tape on the back of it and post it on the whiteboard behind my small group table), then they need to ask three other students in the class their question before interrupting my small group and asking me.  It has worked like a charm!  You can grab a free copy here.

Other awesome tools that I frequently use are Silent Response Cards.  I have found these to be especially great for my students learning English.  Many of my English language learners are intimidated to participate in class discussions because they feel like they won't be able to communicate their answers...well, these cards take that intimidation away!  

Students are given a set of pre-made Silent Response Cards.  I have 40 sets made, so each student has their own to use, and can hold up an answer SILENTLY whenever appropriate.  I use these during language arts, math, science, social studies, test prep, and class games. This is also a quick assessment tool for me, because based on the colors, I can see who is and is not understanding a concept.  You can see my blog post on these for more details.

Finally, I wanted to share my Weekly Reflection Form: A way in which students communicate their goals and weekly self-reflections with me.  This one might be my favorite communication tool, because I really get to connect with students on how they are doing each week.

There are four parts to this reflection form.  First, at the end of each day students have to color in their behavior circle...either green, yellow or red.  I use a stop light behavior management system, so if students have moved their clip from green to yellow, then they color their circle yellow for the day. 

Stop light behavior clip system

I have also used this in upper grade, where students rate their own behavior using a 3-2-1 scale:

3 - great behavior, no redirection needed
2- okay behavior, teacher had to redirect once 
1- need to improve behavior, had more than one redirection

The second and third part of this reflection form allows students to highlight or celebrate something they did during the week, as well as note something with which they struggled.  This can be something academic, or social.  It's really a great way for students to be able to share something with me, without having to come to me face-to-face (which can be more difficult for some students).

The final part of this reflection form is for students to set a goal for themselves for the next week.  I enjoy reading these and helping to keep my students accountable for their goals. Again, this can be something academic, or something that is going on in their social life at school.

Having students use a weekly reflection form is such a valuable means of communication and it only takes 30 seconds each day to fill in the behavior part, and about five minutes on Friday to complete the rest of it.  

Sometimes I send these home and require a parent signature, just so parents can see what students are working towards in the classroom.  Otherwise, I collect them on Friday and read through them over the weekend.  I have a system where I will comment on nine of them each weekend, so that way once a month I am commenting on every student's reflection form.  YES, this takes more time, which teachers don't have a lot of, but to me, this is worth it!  This is a way to show my students that I WANT TO COMMUNICATE WITH THEM and that I CARE! :-)

I hope you have found some of these tips useful!  Please feel free to leave a comment and share some of the wonderful classroom communication tools you use!   


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