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4 Tools to Boost Communication Skills in the STEM Classroom

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Healthy communication is vital to thriving workplace communities, and it’s essential for effective collaborative classrooms as well. Knowing when and how to express yourself, recognizing nonverbal cues, and being able to discern what's important when someone speaks can be key factors in building interpersonal relationships. By practicing communication skills, students will get better at asking for help and expressing what they need, and over time they will develop the skills and confidence to tell you more clearly what they've learned in class.

In STEM fields, empathetic communication is a fundamental ingredient for success. Whether you’re a healthcare professional or a programmer, you must be able to take highly technical knowledge and describe it in a clear and simple way for others. If students learn to express ideas in a persuasive way and respond gracefully to reactions to their opinions, they’ll be able to promote innovation and social change through fields like bioengineering or video game design. You may not be able to see the outcomes of bolstering students' communication right away, but the transfer to real-world situations will one day be undeniable.

Check out these picks to improve verbal and nonverbal communication in the STEM classroom.

PenPal Schools
PenPal Schools is a global, online learning community where students can connect with others to collaborate on online projects. Students practice thinking critically about the world and working together as a team, while learning to communicate with someone from an unfamiliar background. Although it’s set up for many subjects, and there are some STEM projects already (like Protecting the Planet), you can create your own project related to any subject you wish -- whether it be calculus or coding.


CueThink guides students through four steps for solving math problems: Understand, Plan, Solve, and Review. When working through the stepped-out solutions, students write what they notice, create a plan, and record multiple solutions. Students can practice communication skills by recording videos of their solutions and sharing them with their classmates. Then they can focus on improving their writing by adding concise, clear critiques of other students’ methods.

Science Journal

Measure sound, light, and more using sensors in Android phones with this app from Google. As students collect data in real time, they can compare multiple trials (like with the app Lab4Physics). Students can also add their own audio observations. Have other students listen to the audio and see if they can understand the analysis and interpret the results effectively. If students don’t have an Android device, have them record audio observations from experiments directly on their phones.

Introduce new math or science concepts -- or help students memorize facts -- by listening to quality educational hip-hop songs and videos with Flocabulary. But don’t just practice listening skills: Break down the songs through meaningful in-class discussion and analysis. Then, as individuals or in groups, have students create a song of their own. By constructing their own lyrics about the content, students will  learn how to communicate their knowledge of STEM topics in a different way.

This article’s content is an extension of the We All Teach SEL blog series from Common Sense Education. Check it out for a complete look at social and emotional learning in the classroom.