Easy Activities for Developing IB PYP Communication Skills

This article is bringing you some creative ideas for developing the IB PYP communications skills with your students. These are all practical and simple ideas that I've used in my class over the years with much success, much laughter and a lot of meaningful learning too. As I was listening to Claire, from The Art Engager podcast, this quote stuck with me, as I thought about how to better support my learners and reminded me of a really simple activity for mindful listening.

"Becoming more aware of your listening skills is the first step to improving them. "

The Art Engager Podcast


Listening is often overlooked as a communication skill and so I like to begin here to remind the children that this is really a big part of collaborative discussions. We need to be able to listen to respond to others rather than listening to react.

And so, a simple but effective activity for all ages that can be done indoors or outdoors is to just simply stop and listen. If you throw in a few guiding questions, these can help the children to focus.

  • How far can you hear?
  • Can you hear anything outside the classroom/beyond the playground? 
  • What is the quietest sound you heard?
  • Which man-made sounds do you hear? 
  • What do hear coming from nature?
  • Which parts of your own body can you hear?


Accountable talk is an important part of developing conversation skills. It involves:

  • stretching the children's repertoire of answers
  • enabling discussions to become more in depth
  • supports justifying answers
  • promotes acceptance of perspective.

The bingo board chart below is an effective scaffold that we use daily in the beginning of the school year and gradually add to it as the children recognise how their responses are actually a part of " accountable talk".

Think-Pair-Share is a common thinking routine routine that allows for this accountable talk to take place naturally, together with Talking Sticks.

A talking stick can be a simple stick, ruler, lollipop stick that is held up by the speaker showing the others that it is time for them to listen before responding. I have also used hats for this same purpose. 🤠

The chart can then be used as a prompt to develop the art of the conversation. I challenge the children NOT to use the same responses twice and they enjoy covering the board with tokens or small sticky notes to show which responses they have already used. This has multiple benefits:

  • students can SEE which responses they tend to go for most often and can expand their repertoire, mastering higher level communication skills and adding depth to conversations.
  • I can see how each group is progressing with their conversational skills, giving me insight into their development.
  • kids LOVE manipulatives of ANY sort and it adds to the bingo style gamefication as a teaching strategy. 😉

THE ART OF THE CONVERSATION with LITTLE KIDS The daily routines that encourage conversation are where we establish a rapport that builds trust and a sense of security that is necessary for many children before they will speak up and speak out. This is enhanced when we are working with children who are learning to communicate in a foreign language. These simple and reflective questions are a bank of conversation starters that add to your morning meetings or carpet time, when you can work with small groups or whole class meetings. I have found that the children LOVE to take turns to choose a card from the bundle ( there are over 50 to choose from!) and these act as the start for our conversations. We also use the Communicators hat to encourage communication.

Communicators Hats: This started off as a fancy hat that the speaker wears when taking the floor. The kids LOVED it and it became so successful, I ended up with a different hat for each skill! Whatever it takes, right? The bingo board mentioned above is included in this pack to support independence with accountable talk for those older grades ready to use the cards in a small group. Take a look at this PYP tool in my store by clicking the link or the picture. 

The art of the conversation can be integrated into your daily routine with these cards.

Non-Verbal Communication Activities as Assessment

Human graphs and living diagrams are so much fun for you and your kids! They can be used with multiple subjects and ALL ages.

Living diagrams bring a whole new perspective to communication skills.

I like to explain to the children that they are going to demonstrate their understanding of a concept by creating a diagram, except it's going to be a living diagram! Through drama, the children have to act out their diagram.

For example: The video linked here on my Instagram feed shows how the kids created a living diagram of their understanding of Earth's structure; namely the rock cycle. As an assessment, I can see how they are demonstrating their understanding of those concepts together with their communications skills. Voila! Win-win.

It is an authentic and meaningful assessment and fun too. 

Human graphs ask the children to put themselves into order WITHOUT using their voices. They then have to use body-language to communicate. For example: Place Value: I ask the children to write a number from 1 - 100,000 onto a sticky note. Then, without speaking, they have to arrange themselves (the entire class!) into a line in numerical order, from lowest to highest, or vice versa. NO TALKING ALLOWED. 😆

Bringing fun activities into maths THROUGH communication skills.

Use this same strategy with order of height, shoe size (rulers can be part of this) number of letters in their first name and so on. It is a LOT of fun and gives me a visual of their understanding of the maths concepts in question together with communication skills, self-management and social skills too. 

I have more ideas for including drama to support and develop communication skills.  You can read more in this previous blog article. Using Drama to Develop ATL Skills.


And I have many, many resources that help with communication skills. 

My very popular maths key concept task cards for ALL ages are a GREAT way to bring accountable talk into practice! These REALLY get the conversation going all through the lens of maths concepts and key concepts. I like to use them in alignment with our MATHS concepts, using them with small groups in my guided maths for developing conceptual awareness of the KEY CONCEPTS since they approach maths through the macro concepts, bringing context to those key concepts and maths. Consider the following communication skills necessary for maths:

  • link their mathematical thinking through communication
  • communicate their logical thoughts of the problems to the learning community ( peers, teachers, parents)
  • justify their thinking
  • analyse and assess strategies for solutions
  • reflect upon thinking strategies used by others
  • use mathematical language to express mathematical ideas correctly.

  • Upper grades maths key concepts task cards.
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And there you have it. A few effective and practical ideas that I hope you can take back to your own classroom. Until next time, 






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