Students demonstrate the ability to: 

  • Send, receive, and correctly interpret information, ideas, thoughts, desires, and needs by both verbal and nonverbal communication. 
  • Be assertive without being offensive or arrogant. 
Key Beliefs:

I will be a better student if I act on the following beliefs:

  • It is my responsibility to communicate clearly with others and express my views effectively and respectfully. 
  • I know when and how to use different forms of communication, including technology. 
  • I need to articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts.
  • It is important to listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes, and intentions.
  • I understand how to use communication to inform, instruct, motivate, and persuade.
  • Explain and illustrate the core components of effective communication and how it impacts others. 
  • Provide opportunities for students to learn non-verbal communication. Use a variety of games and role-playing activities to internalize non-verbal communication in a formal or professional setting. 
  • While reading a story or discussing the content of your subject matter, explain and illustrate the core components of effective communication and how it impacts others. 
  • Prepare and deliver explanatory and persuasive arguments and presentations.
  • Research a recent world/local event (hurricane, volcanic eruption, flood, war, famine, mass migration, earthquake, etc.) and adopt the perspective of someone directly involved in what has happened or in the response.
  • Articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively through speaking and writing.
  • Have students conduct an interview with someone from the local community.
  • Organize a storyboard on a person/place/event, and use digital tools to create a presentation that teaches their topic to the remainder of the class. 
  • Research, organize, and present historical information in clear, complete, and effective formats.
  • Retell a story they have read in their own words to encourage them to summarize the main ideas of the story, instead of just responding to specific questions with facts.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses, and constructively express criticism concerning the merit of oral communications, writings, performances, and artistic works. 
  • “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
  • “The most important things are the hardest to say because words diminish them.” – Stephen King
  • “The two words information and communication are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” – Sydney Harris
  • “Two monologues do not make a dialogue.”– Jeff Daly
  • “Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” – Plato
  • “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” – Mark Twain
  • “Who you are is speaking so loudly that I can’t hear what you’re saying.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” – Thumper from Bambi
  • “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” – Albert Einstein
  • “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker
  • “The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” – Anthony Robbins
  • “Communication is the solvent of all problems and is the foundation for personal development.” – Peter Shepherd
  • “Blessed are they who have nothing to say, and who cannot be persuaded to say it.” – James Russell Lowell

Ways to Communicate

Essential Question: What are some ways humans communicate?

Objective: Participants learn about different forms of communication; participants practice different forms of communication.

Summary:  Communication is what we do to give and get understanding; it is the process of sending and receiving messages. Successful communication occurs when there is understanding. Communication can be verbal, using oral language to convey a message, or non-verbal, including facial expressions, body language, text, or written-based language. Sometimes a message’s original meaning gets lost in the translation between thought and the act of communicating it. Teaching young people how to communicate effectively helps them maintain healthy relationships, resolve conflicts peacefully, excel in school, and eventually get and keep jobs.

Materials: Paper, pens, and pencils


  1. Begin by playing the game “Telephone.” Have participants sit in a circle. Ask one participant to think of a phrase or sentence. Direct them to whisper it in the ear of the person sitting next to them. Each participant whispers what they think they heard to the next participant next to them. The last participant says the phrase or sentence out loud. Ask the first participant if that was their phrase. Did anything change? Did the message get lost or changed in translation? This is an example of verbal communication.
  2. Now play the game “Charades.” Have participants get up one at a time to act out a phrase or sentence without using any words or sounds while the others guess the phrase or sentence. Ask participants to explain what they did to communicate their message when they were unable to use words (ex: facial expressions, body language, gestures). Were others able to guess the phrase or sentence? Was the message delivered effectively? This is an example of non-verbal communication. Explain that we all communicate all day long, whether or not we are using words. Explain that others pick up messages from our facial expressions, body language, gestures, and general demeanor.
  3. Have partners get in pairs. Direct them to communicate “hello” to their partner in three different ways. If they need help, remind them that they can use verbal words, written text, their body or a gesture, or even do something creative.
  4. Next, have them communicate a feeling to their partner. Give examples of feelings: sad, angry, happy, excited, jealous, confused, or worried. The other partner will guess what feeling they are portraying. For example, if their feeling was “sad” they could say or write “I feel sad”, make a facial expression, or show with their body how they feel)
  5. Give examples from “telephone” and “charades” to demonstrate that what you want to communicate is not always what others understand. Explain this is how rumors and gossip spread: someone tells someone a secret and it gets passed on and it gets changed and distorted along the way, just as the message did in “telephone.”
  6. Remind participants that being clear and concise in their verbal and non-verbal communication is an important life skill that needs to be practiced.
  7. Finish by using non-verbal communication to ask participants to take out their journals or that you’ll see them later or that you love them! Have participants guess your message and then do the action.

Journal Prompt: How do you communicate most often? How would you get people to understand you if you couldn’t communicate that way anymore?

Conflict Resolution

Essential Question: How can conflicts be resolved peacefully?

Objective: Participants use scenarios and role-playing to learn ways to resolve conflicts peacefully; participants examine choices and consequences involved in settling disagreements or tension.

Summary:  Conflict resolution means working out a problem or disagreement without fighting, running away, or going against your feelings. Knowing how to handle conflicts in a positive way can help people stay safe from violence, feel good about themselves, and learn to respect others. Physical violence, name-calling, threats, bullying, teasing, and other forms of negative communication often escalate conflicts and lead to serious consequences, including physical injury, lowered self-esteem, and punishment. Good communication involves being a good listener, considering and respecting the other person’s point of view, working together to think of solutions, and learning to relax the body and calm the mind during high-tension situations. Practicing these positive communication skills can help people make responsible choices during high-tension situations and avoid violence and further problems.


  • Role-playing scenarios
  • Large paper or board to write feelings and ideas


  1. Begin by asking the participants to raise their hands if they’ve ever been involved in a conflict (ex: a disagreement or a fight with someone). Brainstorm what might cause a conflict (ex: bullying, teasing, gossip, jealousy, prejudice, broken friendships, broken romances, possessions, different points of view, wanting a different outcome to a problem).
  2. Ask them to brainstorm some feelings that might go along with being in a conflict (ex: angry, jealous, lonely, scared, confused, disappointed, worried, sad). Write these feelings on the board or large paper as the students say them.
  3. Explain that when we are involved in a disagreement or any conflict, there are choices we can make; every choice we make has a consequence. Explain that learning about conflict resolution, or learning about how to work things out peacefully without fighting, running away, or going against your own beliefs, can keep you safe from violence, make you feel good about yourself, and help you learn to respect others.
  4. Explain the role-playing activity. For every scenario, watch the set-up scene, have a volunteer come and help resolve the conflict, and then brainstorm ideas together about what choices can be made and what the consequences are of those choices. Demonstrate a scenario and conflict resolution. Ask if there are any questions.
  5. Ask for volunteers or choose participants to be the actors.
  6. Read the scenario and then have participants act out the scenario (see sample scenarios below, or come up with your own). Have someone come in to help resolve the conflict. Step in as needed to give suggestions. Have the participants actually say the words of the peaceful conflict resolution to practice.
  7. Have the group identify the problem, the feelings that may be involved, and then have the group come up with a list of choices and their corresponding consequences. Ask: What choices can be made to escalate this incident or make it worse? What choices can be made to resolve this conflict peacefully or make it better? What choices could have been made to avoid this incident altogether? When is it helpful to ask someone (a teacher, a friend, a parent, a trusted adult) to mediate/step in and help solve a conflict?
  8. Finish by asking the participants if they have an example of a positive conflict resolution situation they were part of and would like to share.
Scenarios with scripting:

Scenario #1: “I was sitting here first” (problem: stealing)—Sarah was sitting in a chair. She got up to use the bathroom. When she came back, Dana was sitting in that seat. The person who was sitting there first wants their seat back and the other person doesn’t want to give the seat up. (Choices: hit each other and get into a fight someone gets hurt, they both get in trouble, and no one gets the chair. OR Discuss and explain calmly, both people compromise, get another chair everyone has a chair, and no one gets hurt OR Ask a teacher for help the teacher assists them in discussing and explaining calmly, and everyone gets a chair, no one gets hurt.)

Scenario #2: “That’s mine” (problem: stealing)—Jolie and Carrie are sitting next to each other eating a snack. When Jolie turns to talk to another friend, Carrie grabs Jolie’s snack and hides it in her lap. Jolie turns back and notices her snack is gone and suspects that Carrie stole it. (Choices: call names, yell to give back the snack, threaten to slap her if she doesn’t give it back, grab the snack back out of her lap someone gets hurt, both get in trouble, they stay mad at each other OR discuss and explain calmly or get a teacher, Jolie gives the snack back and apologizes, Carrie accepts the apology they both get to eat the snack, no one gets hurt or in trouble, they stay friends)

Scenario #3: “I heard you said you didn’t like me” (problem: gossiping, teasing, bullying) –Amina overhears a group of girls making fun of the outfit she is wearing today. She notices that Lauren, a girl who has teased her about her clothes before, is part of that group. Amina feels like crying. (Choices: go yell at the group, punch Lauren, run away and hope it doesn’t happen again someone gets hurt, everyone gets in trouble, Lauren continues to tease and bully Amina, Amina continues to feel sad OR Amina walks up to the group and tells them how their comments make her feel Lauren and the group apologize, Lauren and the group continue to tease Amina OR Amina gets a teacher to help her confront the group)

Scenario #4: “I thought we were friends” (problem: ditching, silent treatment, leaving out) Camille and Stephanie are good friends. They have sleepovers and hang out together at recess every day. Over the summer Camille’s cousin Breanne from Los Angeles moved into Camille’s family’s home. Since the school year started, Camille and her cousin have been hanging out at recess together every day and Stephanie has not been invited to any sleepovers. One day at recess Stephanie walks over to Camille and Breanne to say hi and the two girls run away from her. The next day at recess Stephanie walks over to try to say hi again and hang out with her best friend. This time instead of running away Camille and Breanne look at each other, cross their arms, and give Stephanie the silent treatment. (Choices? Consequences?)

Journal Prompt: Describe a situation you were in recently that was not solved peacefully. How would you go back and change it if you could?

Online Communication—Internet Safety

Essential QuestionHow can you stay safe on the internet?

Objective: Participants learn about the potential dangers of the internet; participants plan how they will stay safe when using the Internet.

Summary:  The internet has created new ways for people to communicate and be connected. Through the internet and other computer technology, young people have the opportunity to gain media literacy, become technically savvy, construct identities, socialize, and be connected to people all over the world. Despite the benefits of computer innovation, cyber-bullying and the spread of rumors and gossip on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, as well as through chat rooms, instant messaging, and email, are growing problems. The FBI reports that by the age of 14, 77% of teens have been contacted by a predator online, 12% of teenage girls admitted to eventually meeting strangers they first met online in person, and chat room strangers are implicated in nearly 20% of cases of missing teens aged 15 to 17 each year (Baeza 6). Teaching young people about online safety is as important as teaching them about the benefits of computer technology.


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Videos or online videos about online safety
  • Paper
  • Pens and pencils


  • Begin a discussion about internet use. Ask participants: Have you ever used the internet before? What do YOU use the internet for? What CAN the internet be used for? (ex: research/learn about things, get/share news, chat with friends, look up the bus/train/airplane schedule, watch movies/TV shows, play computer games, listen to music, look up books at the library, check the weather, look up sports scores, find a job, etc)
  • Explain that although the internet can be used for all of these amazing purposes, sometimes it is used to hurt others. Explain it is important to learn about the potential dangers of the internet so you can use it for all its benefits while staying safe.
  • Show videos or online videos about online safety. Show public service announcements about cyber-bullying, stories of spreading gossip or photos that have led to suicide, and stories about kidnapping or someone getting hurt that happened as a result of meeting someone online.
  • Ask participants to think about the videos they saw and answer: What do you need to be careful about on the internet? Explain what they need to be careful about:
    • Predators—people aren’t always who they say they are, people might lie to you, people might try to entice you with something they know you like and then trick you into meeting them;
    • Bullying—if you wouldn’t say it out loud, why say it online?;
    • Website content—if you see something that makes you uncomfortable, report it to a trusted adult.
  • Help participants understand the Internet is forever: everything they post online is tracked and stored and will follow them to future job interviews and college entrance interviews. Also, explain that victims/targets of bullying should not respond to the messages, but should print out the messages or pictures as evidence and report it to a trusted adult.
  • Ask if there are any questions about anything they have heard or seen today.
  • Pass out paper and pens. Have participants create a rule sheet about internet safety to post by a computer. Assist as necessary. Have participants write 5 to 10 rules to remind them how to be safe when using the internet. Use the “Online Safety Rules for Kids” by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and as examples.  I will:
    • not give out personal information such as my address, telephone numbers, parent’s work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school to anyone online.
    • tell my parent/guardian right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
    • never agree to get together with someone I “meet” online. If my parents/guardians agree to a meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my parent/guardian along.
    • never send someone my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents/guardians.
    • not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way makes me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If I do, I will print out the messages or pictures as evidence and report it to a trusted adult.
    • talk with my parents/guardians so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon a time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online and appropriate areas for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.

Journal Prompt: What would you like to look up on the internet? If you had a pen-pal from another country that you communicated with over the internet, what would you tell them about yourself? If you created your own website, what would it be about?


The Challenger Disaster

The Challenger shuttle crew of seven astronauts died tragically in the explosion of their spacecraft during the launch of STS–51–L from the Kennedy Space Center on January 28, 1986. The explosion occurred 73 seconds into the flight as a result of a leak in one of two Solid Rocket Boosters that ignited the main liquid fuel tank.

The NASA investigational commission’s report on the incident cited the cause of the disaster as a failure of an O–ring seal in the solid–fuel rocket. The faulty design of the seal coupled with the unusually cold weather of the launch date, let hot gases leak through the joint. This allowed booster rocket flames to pass through the failed seal, further enlarging the small hole. 


The commission not only found fault with a failed sealant ring but also with the officials at NASA who allowed the shuttle launch to take place despite concerns voiced by engineers regarding the safety of the launch. One of the major factors to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was a lack of effective communication between the NASA engineers and management. Communication between the company that designed the Solid Rocket Boosters and NASA management was also very poor. 

The environment was such that it was not conducive to creating an atmosphere where everyone was comfortable expressing their opinions and making thoughtful decisions. The truth of the matter is that Morton Thiokol did not have any data on how its Solid Rocket Boosters and O–rings would perform at temperatures lower than 51 ºF. The night before the launch, the temperature outside fell to 18 ºF, and on the morning of the launch, the temperature was at 36 ºF. While some engineers believed that the boosters would still be able to function safely under these conditions, many were very worried that the temperature would cause a failure. The inability of the Morton Thiokol engineers to effectively convey their concerns to the NASA management and convince them to postpone the shuttle’s launch is one factor that ultimately led to the disastrous outcome. 

Another interesting failure in communication occurred between the grounds crew and NASA management. The grounds crew was out measuring the thickness of the ice on the shuttle the morning of the shuttle’s launch. In order to do this, they used infrared cameras that also allowed them to record the temperature of each part of the shuttle. They recorded a temperature of only 8 ºF on the right Solid Rocket Booster only hours before the launch. This is far below the temperature range that the O–rings were designed to be used in. However, this vital information was never conveyed to NASA’s managers or the engineers because the ground crew was only instructed to report on the thickness of the ice on the shuttle.

A Bridge or a Fence
Once upon a time two brothers, who lived on adjoining farms, fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without conflict. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence. One morning there was a knock on the older brother’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox.

“I’m looking for a few days’ work.” – he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with?”

“Yes.” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor; in fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll do him one better.”

“See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence –an 8–foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place or his face anymore.”

The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post–hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”

The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready, and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, and nailing.

About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job.

The farmer’s eyes opened wide, and his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge – a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all – and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward them, his arms outstretched – “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge, after all, I’ve said and done.”

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder.

“No, wait! Stay a few days. I have a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother.

“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but I have many more bridges to build.