Classroom communication exists in three categories: verbal, nonverbal and written. Verbal communication means anything that a teacher or student speaks aloud. Nonverbal communication refers to body language that people express. Written communication is writing directed at a specific audience, such as report card comments or student assignments. Teachers and students interact with one another in many different contexts, and use all three of these types of communication.
Teacher/class communication exists when a teacher communicates with his entire class. Verbal communication exists when a teacher tells students information they need to know. For example, if a teacher asks a student to "stop talking," this is a direct form of verbal communication. There are ways for teachers to communicate nonverbally with their classes, such as through their posture, gesticulations and proximity to the students. Instead of telling a student to stop talking, a teacher could use nonverbal communication by moving toward the disruptive student's desk. Not only does the disruptive student receive the message, but other students in the class who observe the intervention receive it as well. Written instructions for an assignment are given from the teacher for the whole class.
Teacher/student communication occurs when a teacher interacts directly with a particular student. Since a teacher interacts with her students mostly in front of the whole class, it can be difficult to distinguish teacher/student communication from teacher/class communication. Teacher/student communication requires that the teacher act one-on-one with a student, such as in a conference during class activities, before or after class or after school. This type of communication is effective for teachers who want to communicate a private message, such as a talk about constant inappropriate behavior or about taking more of a leadership role in class.
Student/teacher communication is also direct communication between a student and the teacher, but this time it is the student who initiates the conversation. Also, this can occur during whole-class participation. For example, a student who asks a teacher a question during class discussion engages in student/teacher communication because it is a single student communicating with a single teacher. The reason the reverse situation constitutes teacher/class communication and not teacher/student is that the teacher's actions and messages are directed toward the whole class while the student's questions here are only directed at the teacher. When students write emails to their teacher on graded assignments, this constitutes a written form of student/teacher communication.
Student/student communication occurs when two or more students interact with one another. Successful whole-class discussion stimulates student/student communication because students should talk to each other and not just to the teacher. Two students may disagree and talk back and forth to each other during such discussions. Student/student communication also occurs when students work in groups or pairs to complete assignments.
Student/class communication exists when a student or group of students direct their messages to the entire class. Whole-class discussion can also stimulate this type of communication. For example, if a student asks the class a question during a discussion, the student's message is directed at the entire class. Individual or group presentations also constitute student/class communication, and it is this type of communication about which students feel most nervous or self-conscious. Nonverbal communication often includes fidgeting or looking away.
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