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Building Children’s Communication Skills Using the News

Developing children’s communication, discussion, and debating skills is important as they progress through school.

Teaching the news and implementing real-life learning can help children grapple with their surroundings, different responses, and how events make them feel.

This blog outlines 3 ways teaching the news builds children’s communication skills.

Developing communication skills using news content.

Understanding emotional responses
Understanding different emotions and showing empathy to others are important tools for effective communication.

Use a news topic or current issue with your pupils to build their ability to read and understand their own emotions, and the feelings of those around them.

Ask how a news story makes the children feel, and explore different emotional responses, to help children identify and articulate their response to an issue or event.

Using a news issue as the anchor for emotional exploration encourages children to analyse their feelings, to explain why they feel or react a certain way.

Part of this discussion, children could evaluate whether their feelings have changed as they have learnt more about a news topic.

Children’s understanding of their own emotions can develop their ability to recognise how others feel. Even if their emotional responses differ, you can instil that all their feelings are valid.

Another way to develop emotional understanding during your news sessions is to encourage children to detect the speaker’s non-verbal cues. This includes body language, facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, speed of speech – essentially what message the speaker is conveying when discussing their opinions. Practising reading non-verbal cues can boost children’s ability to communicate and further understand others.

Developing emotional intelligence in this way, by understanding the personal impact of news issues, will benefit children’s ability to discuss and debate.

Active listening
Quality listening skills are needed to be a good communicator.

This goes beyond simply hearing what someone is saying.

Instead, children who are actively listening are attempting to understand someone’s words, and why they are using them.

If someone is actively listening, it suggests they are fully engaged in what the other person is saying.

So, you could challenge children to respond to a news story you’ve shared by asking open questions to learn more. If children can generate questions and further talking points in response, this is a good indicator they are engaged and actively listening. 

You could also ask children to repeat back or paraphrase the news story they have heard. Articulating a story or event in their own words will reinforce the knowledge gained and show they have actively listened to what’s happening.

Building on this skill will improve children’s communication skills. Not only that, it will help better their attention in the classroom and at home!

Meaningful conversations for personal development
Use a news topic as the centre of your conversation, and implement talking points based on children’s thoughts and opinions on the story.

Here’s some prompts to help your children determine and communicate their view:

  • Is this a straightforward topic to understand?
  • What part of this topic stands out to you?
  • What do you think? Why?
  • What did you already know about this topic?
  • What assumptions are you making?
  • Have your thoughts changed now you know more about the story?
  • What is an alternative view?

Having meaningful news-based conversations can further help children understand the views and ideas of people around them.

Children can respond to what someone else thinks and voice their own opinion, whilst showing they have digested what other people believe.

You may find that during this process of meaningful conversation children change their view, or their initial thoughts alter. Listening and reflecting helps us develop as people, and is also important as children improve their ability to discuss ideas.

If this happens, you could take it a step further by asking children to identify what exactly made them change their view, as they become more advanced in their ability to communicate.

Using the news as a focus point for discussion therefore allows for a variety of opinions, whilst making room for thoughts to develop and evolve.

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