Having struggles finding new and creative ways to teach communication skills to your students? We want to help! We sat down with our Customer Success Manager, Jennifer Stubblefield, to brainstorm some creative projects you can use in your classroom.
Jennifer is a retired Business Educator and communications guru. You may even recognize her as the 2019 CERTIFIED Educator of the Year. This woman knows her stuff, and is more than happy to share her experience. As Jennifer says, “As a teacher, you need to be a hunter-seeker-finder. When we go to conferences or read ideas online, it’s all about getting inspiration for what you can take back to your own classroom.”
An interview is the first formal communication opportunity for any job. However, this can often be the most daunting interaction for students, and even professionals. Jennifer, like many teachers, wanted to make sure her students had as close to a real interview experience as possible. “I know other schools bring professionals in and have everyone in the big cafeteria to chat. I just didn’t feel like that showed students what it would really be like.
“I was fortunate enough to teach for many years, so I had a long list of professionals in my community that I could call. I would be the one to set up the mock interview and the professional would conduct an interview with my student as if they were an applying professional. This experience taught so many valuable skills: Showing up on time (but not too early), how to sit, how to maintain eye contact, how to respond to questions. It was incredible. I cannot tell you how many of my students were hired because of these interviews. Such a validating experience for both my students and me.”
Fortune 500 Portfolio and Presentation
With a mock interview, students learn how to conduct themselves in an interview. But it’s equally important to know how to conduct themselves on the job. Jennifer and her fellow teachers helped students learn valuable on-the-job communication skills through the Fortune 500 project. Each student selected a company from the Fortune 500 list to research for their project. Students then had to compile an entire company portfolio, including a company history, an infographic, a business card, and a board meeting presentation. Throughout each component, students were learning how to polish their written communication skills for each style of deliverable.
Of course, written communication skills aren’t enough. Students need to be able to communicate their ideas and thoughts verbally. But Jennifer has you covered there as well. “After my students completed their Fortune 500 portfolio, we ran an in-class ‘Shark Tank’, where every student was given 10,000 fake dollars to invest in the companies their peers presented. Talk about a competitive spark because students really wanted to win!
“Every student gave a pitch for why their peers should invest in the company they chose. I loved it because it forced the students to listen (another communication skill) and critically evaluate the presentations. They used the rubric to think about things like who had a great opener, who had confident body language, who really kept them interested.
“There were so many components about that project that I loved, and the same went for my kids. When students reflected they told me it was their favorite project because they had ownership, and that’s what you want from your students.”
Helping students polish long term projects is just one piece of the puzzle. Students also need to be able to communicate effectively in quick and informal situations. “I’m a big proponent of FBLA,” said Jennifer, “When we were going to leave for a trip to Nashville or Chicago, I would tell my students that it was time to work on their elevator pitch. I couldn’t just have students get on the elevator and do the typical nod. I made sure they knew that they had just a few seconds, one opportunity to communicate who they were.”
How can you get students excited about an elevator pitch? “I can’t believe I’m going to say this: Put it on TikTok! I had students pair up and record, edit, and post their 30 second elevator pitch. We watched them as a class, and they learned so much from watching each other. I loved it because it taught teamwork and gave students a chance to talk about themselves in a professional forum.”
Just like the elevator pitch teaches, not all business communication happens in the board room or the office. Students also need to learn how to conduct themselves while multitasking, and what better way to multitask than with a meal.
“I loved surprising my seniors with a business lunch. They’d come into class and find that I’d removed all the chairs. I’d hand them each a plate and cup. ‘Go to the back and get something to eat and drink,’ I’d say. Before they knew it, we had five to ten professionals from the community coming in the classroom to network with them. In the spur of the moment, they had to learn how to mingle and chat with people who were not their peers. Plus, they did it all while holding a plate and cup, just like so many afternoon networking events in the business world.
“Afterwards we had a big debriefing and I talked to them about what went well, where did they mess up. I reminded them that mistakes happen! But I would much rather have them make a mistake in my classroom than at their future internship at Ernst and Young.”
If not you, then who? Who else can teach your students these crucial skills for career success. Your work is so relevant and critical for your students’ career success.
Interested in learning more about creative projects and ideas for your communications classroom? Check out the full webinar with Jennifer here. Don’t miss your chance to get additional advice from communications educators and experts during CSB Academy.