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9th Graders Get the Picture When It Comes to Effective Communication

  |   30th street, Aaron School, Elementary School

Jillian Greenstein, School Psychologist at 30th Street


Responsibilities and Choices 1 is the second class in the related services curriculum at Aaron High School. In this class, students participate in interactive lessons, role-play activities, and class discussions aimed at helping them understand, apply, and generalize skills, such as effective communication, perspective-taking, code switching, and conflict resolution. Our 9th grade students are currently learning about how to communicate effectively with others. They began the unit by reflecting on their communication strengths (e.g., having a friendly tone, matching their volume to the environment, expressing themselves clearly) and areas for growth (e.g., being more specific when needed, rephrasing if someone isn’t understanding, asking clarifying questions, managing frustration during a communication breakdown). After discussing each of these skills, we put their effective communication skills to the test!


Our students participated in a “Listen and Draw” challenge where the class was split into pairs of students. Once they were separated, the students moved their desks so that they were seated back-to-back with their partner. Partner #1 was given a simple, recognizable picture while Partner #2 was given a clipboard, pencil, and blank piece of paper. Partner #1 began by explaining the purpose of the object in the picture (e.g., “This is something you eat.”). Then, Partner #1 gave instructions for Partner #2 to draw the object in the picture by using descriptive words and references for size, direction, and orientation on the page (e.g., “Draw a circle about the size of your fist in the center of the page.”). Partner #2 was encouraged to advocate for repetition, clearer instructions, and/or rephrasing of instructions in order to accurately draw the object. After the class completed a picture, the students enjoyed revealing their attempts to their partners and the rest of their classmates! For each round, the partners swapped roles so that each student had an opportunity to practice giving instructions and advocating for clarification. Throughout the activity, the students reflected on what was challenging about describing and drawing each picture. They problem-solved communication breakdowns that led to some silly-looking pictures and brainstormed strategies that they could implement during the next round to help them. Each round became just a little bit more difficult, but the 9th graders absolutely rose to the challenge!