Give teens a cell phone and they’ll prove what great talkers they are. Put them in classrooms or other public settings, however, and suddenly they’re silent. OR they’re stumbling around trying to express themselves because they’re not just, um, like chatting, you know, with their friends. Abandoning teen-speak is, you know, so totally different than what they’re used to. They’re so out of their comfort level.
But talking is an essential skill.
Since talkers are good learners (they’re engaged and following along with the teacher), it’s important to practice talking skills with your kids at home. Start as early as middle school, when teen jargon begins to gain prominence and peers become so important.
Here, I mean talking in the most complete sense of the word. It means drawing on a reasonably developed vocabulary to communicate thoughts that are often complicated or complex. Talking well requires thinking, organization and careful listening.
Sitting at the dinner table and having family conversations is one way to get your kids to practice their communication skills. Encourage them to talk with their teachers, store clerks, neighbors and friends’ parents.
Help your students expand their vocabulary. Suggest they pay attention to unfamiliar words and look them up on their cell phone. Then you both try using the new words in different sentences. Remind your kids that large vocabularies help provide opportunities in a complicated and competitive world.
Take stock right now. How well could your 17-year-old speak to a doctor about her symptoms? Your 16-year-old clear up a minor problem in the school office? Could your 14-year-old solve a scheduling problem with his coach? Or your 13-year-old speak intelligently to a salesperson?
For more than 25 years I watched an inability to talk interfere with learning and undercut the potential of college students. Don’t let that happen to your child — get talking!