Communication: Top Skill Wanted - Lesson 1 of 4

Project and Purpose

Students analyze communication skills through a partner work in an art activity and in discussing an article

Essential Questions

Why are soft skills like communication important for school and career?


  • Unlined paper, pencils, and something to lean on to draw (desk, clipboard, hardcover book, etc.)
  • Copies of 3 images (projected or individual copies for teams of students)
  • Copies of Note: “ 10 Skills and Competencies for Science Majors ” by Ian Render


1. Ask students to list what they consider to be the five most important communication skills. This list might include: speaking clearly, using appropriate and specific vocabulary, active listening, using eye contact, patience, being open to new ideas, refraining from criticism, trying not to talk at the same time, asking clarifying questions, etc.

2. Explain that students will test a few of their communication skills by working in pairs to draw pictures that appear on the screen/board. One person will be the communicator, and the other will be the artist. The communicator will look at the picture and accurately explain to the artist, who may not see the picture, what and how to draw the picture.

3. Have the artist face away from the projection and have the communicator sit back-to-back facing the projection. If using paper copies, have the pairs sit back-to-back and give the communicator the copy of the picture.

4. Give the communicators two (2) minutes to describe what and how to draw the picture to their partners.

5. At the end of the two minutes, have each artist show their partner the picture. Have pairs discuss what communication techniques were used, which worked, and how they can improve.

6. Have the partners switch roles.

7. Show the second image and allow communicators three minutes to describe this new image to their artists. At the end of three minutes, have the artist show their drawing to the communicator and once again discuss the communication techniques used as well as what worked and what needs improvement.

8. If time, have students switch partners and try one more round of the activity and discussion with the third image.

9. Ask partners to share one thing about the experience with the larger group. Consider using the questions below for discussion:

  • Which skills from the list generated at the beginning of class were used in this exercise? Which were not? Why?
  • What specific communication skills did each person in the pair need to use?
  • What other skills were necessary to do this activity? Why?
  • What was the most important skill to use in this exercise? Why?

10. Distribute copies of “10 Skills and Competencies for Science Majors” by Ian Render, one to each pair of students. Tell partners that they are to use the skills they discussed and practiced in the back-to-back drawing activity to determine how they will read, take notes, and discuss the article with each other, and then share their thoughts with the larger group.

11. At the end of the work time, ask students to discuss the article and the communication skills they used to discuss the article with their partner.


Post the slide about the studies of soft skills and employers and explain that soft skills are, in general, defined as personal attribute-driven general skills that are usually self-developed (as opposed to hard skills, which you typically acquire in school or on the job). Ask students to respond to the question on the slide as well as discuss their thoughts on the essential question: Why are soft skills like communication
important for school and career?

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