Decentralised Teaching and Learning

“Not all who wander are lost”. J R R Tolkien

Communication lets me down…

…and I’m left here

This is a shorter post describing a lesson I recently gave on the topic of ‘Communication’ at B2/ C1 level.

This lesson provides an interesting introduction to organisational communication which you can use before covering specific topics such as emailing, talking in meetings and so on. I’ve also found that learners like talking about problems specific to their company and as a teacher this gives you more insight into their working lives.

The first exercise is also a great ‘warmer’ for other groups, not just  Business English learners.

The Lesson

1) Tell the learners about a ‘secret’, ‘bad habit’, or ‘something you do when no one’s looking’.

Mine was biting my nails.

Ask the learners the question – what does this habit communicate to you?

Suggested answers: Maybe I’m nervous, waiting for the results of a test or have something to hide!

2) Give out slips of paper to learners and ask them to write their ‘secrets’ down.

Tell them this is completely anonymous and don’t let their neighbour see what they’re writing. Of course, you can tell the learners to invent a secret, they don’t have to tell the truth (though this is more fun!).

Tell them to fold their papers and give them back to you.

3) Put the learners into groups and distribute randomly some of the ‘secrets’.

It doesn’t matter if they get their own ‘secret’. Ask them to discuss the question – what does this ‘secret’ communicate to you?

Below are some of my learner’s ‘secrets’ – ‘I like to dance while I’m  cleaning, cooking etc.‘ being my absolute favourite.

4) Ask the learners the question:
What problems do you have with communication in your everyday working life (e.g. via email, speech, phone or skype)?

5) Give the learners the following comprehension questions (answers provided):

 – What is the conventional approach to communication? The transfer of information to the right people (through the right channels).

 – What are some of the problems associated with this conventional approach? Interpretation, people can be deceptive, people have different motives for communicating, meaning changes with context, unspoken communication, varied reasons for communication.

 – What is the new approach mentioned in the video?

Organisations AS Communication (a constitutive view)

– What everyday situations demand a more sophisticated approach to communication? Dealing with conflict, giving bad news, mediating a dispute.

 – What business situations demand a more sophisticated approach? Implementing organisational change, navigating organisational politics, convincing or persuading sceptical leaders.

 – From a round-earth perspective (not flat earth!) what does  your organisation looks like?

6) Watch the video ‘What is Organisational Communication’.

This video also comes in parts on Youtube which might be easier for you to show.

7) Go over answers to comprehension questions.

Be warned – the final question might provoke some discussion!

8) TASK – in groups, using the communication problems from stage 4 ask the learners to draw up

New Guidelines for Communicating at  ………….  (name of company)

You can also put groups into teams – one dealing with spoken communication, one written. There are lots of variations depending on your teaching context.

That’s it!

I hope that you find this lesson on ‘Communication’ useful – drop me a line if you use it and let me know how best to improve it!


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