Meet EL Education’s Student Advisory Council Members

Collaborative Culture: Communication

Am I communicating with students in a way that is empowering?

A teacher addresses students in the classroom:
"I notice Marcel, Quentin and Marielle got right to work. I see Trevor helping Sienna find a pen--thanks for helping her out, Trevor. Kayla, where can you look or whom can you ask if you're not sure what you should be working on right now?"
The teacher's noticing and reinforcement of the positive behaviors she wants to see gives other students a chance to take responsibility for doing what they need to do.  Communication, when building a collaborative classroom, is less about what the teachers say, and more about how they "listen to" and respond to what they see.

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Learning Target

I can describe how my words and nonverbal messages can empower students in the classroom.

Practice: Nonverbal Signals

Learning Target

I can explain the role of nonverbal signals in a positive classroom culture.

What It Is 

  • Nonverbal signals are eye contact, facial expressions and/or hand gestures that communicate a specific meaning to students.
  • Because they are visual instead of (or in addition to) auditory, nonverbal signals help students understand what is being conveyed through multiple senses.
  • They serve many purposes in the classroom--nonverbal signals communicate directions or the need for permission, a question, or a connection or common understanding.

What It Looks Like

Why It Matters

  • Nonverbal signals empower students to communicate with the teacher actively and respectfully during class, and promote eye contact and attention.
  • They promote a quieter, more efficient and focused classroom; they allow for more discretion and dignity in meeting the needs of students; and they allow the teacher to redirect individual students or the class without interrupting the flow of work.

Practice: Choice and Options for Students

Learning Target

I can explain how choice and options create a feeling of shared responsibility and purpose in the classroom.

What It Is 

  • Choices need to be strategic and, often, constrained. It’s not about choosing any option; its about presenting options that meet students’ developmental and academic needs and giving them our respectful trust to make the best choice.
  • When teachers use the language of choice in their classrooms as a foundation for their classroom management, it makes students autonomous, valued partners who own their learning.

What It Looks Like

Why It Matters

  • Choice opens the door for students to participate actively in their learning, by taking full responsibility for their actions and learning to plan their time and effort.
  • When teachers give students options, they also reinforce that learning is collaborative: students and teachers are partners in the learning community.

Practice: Praise, Question, Suggestion

Learning Target

I can explain how to use the Praise, Question, Suggestion protocol to reflect on behavior.

What It Is 

  • Praise, Question, Suggestion is a protocol used to help students revise their work, but can also be a useful framework for helping students reflect on their behavior.
  • The protocol involves three steps:
    1. Specific praise about the work or behavior.
    2. question about the work or behavior.
    3. suggestion for how the question may be addressed through revision to the work or modification to the behavior.

What It Looks Like

Peer-to-peer feedback can be highly effective with practice and good structures.

Praise, Question, Suggestion can be a powerful protocol to use when guiding students through reflection of their behavior.

Why It Matters

  • Praise, Question, Suggestion supports respectful, collaborative communication between peers, or teachers and peers.  
  • Instead of leaning on the teacher, students take active ownership of their tasks and built trust among the diverse members of the learning community.

Dig Deeper

Synthesize & Take Action

For Teachers...

  1. Make a list of some situations that could be streamlined in your classroom using nonverbal signals. What signals could you teach students to use in these situations?
  2. Consider an upcoming lesson. Where can you build in the opportunity to give students options?
  3. The most effective language for redirecting students is always about noting poor choices, not implying they are bad kids.  Write mini-scripts using the language of choice to redirect students who made poor choices.

For School Leaders...

  1. What nonverbal signals would be most helpful to adopt schoolwide? How would this support your students and staff?
  2. Identify teachers on your staff who seamlessly integrate choice and options in their classroom. Organize a learning lab for teachers to identify how choice and options create shared responsibility and purpose in the classroom. 

Resource Downloads

Please log in to access the downloadable resources.