How I Make Myself Clear when I Teach

I enjoy sharing what I know, especially to my students, but I’d love it more when they can understand and apply that piece of information somewhere. However, it takes a long process for both my students and I to achieve it, so I always start small. Meaning, I first make sure that they are able to understand what I say and retain that information.

In this blog post, I’m sharing my personal method of communication with my students. I practice this in conversations with people and group projects as well, and it’s helped me a lot!

  • Be slow and clear

I grew up watching a lot of TED Talks to learn English. I always liked that even though I couldn’t understand everything they said, but I was still able to guess by listening to the keywords. You’re exactly right – it was on me that I had that ability to identify those words. However, I think the more important thing was that every single word was pronounced very clearly to enable me to do so. But how did they do that – they have very different presentation styles for sure? Yes and no. Their speech delivery styles might vary, but a common factor is their speed. They always took their time and paused frequently.

This is so hard for me to copy, because I tend to rush to catch up with my constantly flowing thoughts. However, the more mindful I am and the more practice I do, the better I am at this. Slowing down allows me to think more as I speak, so I don’t have to repeat or correct myself frequently, while pauses give me opportunities to observe the student’s body language. For example, if they nod, smile, or make eye contact, I know that they are still giving me their whole attention; or else, I know it was time for some check-in questions.

  • Keep it simple

I use lots of simple sentences when I speak, so that my listeners can fully understand my point, even if they have shorter attention span. My little brother jokes all the time that I sound like I’m chopping the paragraph into a thousand pieces, but I just really want to make sure people understand my whole point.

I also have a love-hate relationship with technical terms, so I find a way around them by interpreting them in my own way, rephrasing them, or finding similar images to explain them. For instance, I once had to explain “camouflage” to a young student. Here is Wikipedia’s definition:

I told her to ignore that and just remember this: first, it is a verb to show action; second, it’s how animals hide themselves to protect themselves or to catch others. Then, I showed her a video of Randall from Monster Inc.

I took as long as 3 minutes to explain this to her, but I must do a good job, because she could show me a lot of camouflage examples after this!

  • Keep it short

I absolutely hate it when I receive answers that go round and round, without any focus. So, I try to be direct when I communicate with my students and keep my answer short and sweet. A structure that I usually use is:

Answer + why (+ how important this is)

In case I need to elaborate further, I keep it to only around 3-5 sentences. If I have to go further than that, I will have a summary sentence at the end.

  • Last but not least, I check-in

This is something that I already mentioned in my first point. Basically, I check-in and observe frequently to make sure we’re all good. Sometimes, the students can’t tell me the truth because they don’t know where they got lost, so I would just ask them follow-up questions and backtrack a little.

So, to sum up, when I communicate with my students and other people, I speak slowly & clearly, I keep it simple, I keep it short, and I check-in to make sure I always make myself clear and can help them retain the information better.

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