Resources to build communication in every classroom, every day.

Building SEL (social and emotional learning) skills such as communication requires face-to-face interactions, meaningful discussion, and reflection. Edtech is no complete substitute for that, but there are tools that can supplement the development of character in the classroom and at home. Communication isn't just about using good grammar and spelling; it's also about listening attentively and appreciatively, expressing yourself clearly and sensitively, and honoring differences.

While some tools focus specifically on communication, the websites and apps that you use daily (in all subjects) can be used to promote clear self-expression. You don't have to stop using the tools you love or toss out your lesson or curricular plans to start developing SEL. Below we have included some tips, tools, and actionable ideas for seamlessly integrating communication and life-skill-building into your content classroom.  

Why Communication?

Healthy communication is vital to thriving workplace communities; it is essential for effective collaborative classrooms as well. Knowing when and how to express yourself, recognizing nonverbal cues, and being able to discern what's important when someone speaks can be key factors in building interpersonal relationships. Communication is also essential in keeping our communities safe: Read what happened when four students failed to report a gun in school. In the absence of understanding how to communicate issues -- both big and small -- our classrooms fail to function in a safe and open manner.

By practicing communication skills, students will get better at asking for help and expressing what they need, and over time they will develop the skills and confidence to tell you more clearly what they've learned in class. As students begin to express ideas in a persuasive way and respond gracefully to others' reactions to their opinions, social change is possible. By fully engaging with and tackling community problems, they can work toward a more equitable world. You may not be able to see the outcomes of bolstering students' communication right away, but the transfer to real-world situations will one day be undeniable.

Take Action

  • Vary the speed and tone of your voice, pause during transitions, and maintain eye contact to model positive speaking.
  • Brainstorm goals with students about what effective communication looks and sounds like; visibly post in the room.
  • Actively listen to students, giving them your full attention even when you're tempted to multitask.
  • Make sure the technology you use doesn't take the place of, but instead supplements, face-to-face interaction.
  • Visit our SEL in Digital Life Resource Center for quick activities by grade, movie guides, and more!
  • Visit some other excellent SEL resources, including CASEL, Character Lab, Edutopia, and Ashoka.
  • Think about the digital tools you're already using in the classroom. Can you find a creative way to use them to model good communication? Check out our suggestions below!

Directly Target Communication


proloquo2go - symbol-based AAC app

Proloquo2Go - Symbol-based AAC
This app is designed to help students who have limited or no speech with alternate ways to communicate. Students choose from images and words combined into buttons to make detailed sentences that express their wants, needs, and emotions.


the noun project website

The Noun Project
The Noun Project aims to create a global visual language of symbols and icons. Students learn what it would be like to only communicate visually and can design their own icon, thinking about how to best represent a word through a picture.

Foster communication in all subjects

For ELA classrooms


kid in story book maker app

Kid in Story Book Maker
With green-screen technology in-app, students can add pictures of themselves to make a book. After writing a script, have students record themselves reading it at an understandable pace, emphasizing important details when necessary.


explain everything app

Explain Everything
After inputting videos, drawings, and images for support, students can practice speaking clearly and logically as they identify supporting evidence in a text. Students who listen can evaluate the style, substance, and organization.

For math classrooms


flocabulary: math website

Flocabulary: Math
Introduce new math concepts or help students memorize facts by discussing and singing songs. As a class or in groups, have students create a song of their own, learning how to communicate their knowledge of math in a different way.


cuethink website

Through stepped-out solutions to math problems, students write what they notice, ink a plan, and record multiple solutions. Students then practice communication skills in CueThink by adding written, clear critiques of others' solution methods.

For science classrooms


codeable crafts app

Codeable Crafts
Using visual, block-based coding, have kids work in teams to create animated stories that describe animal adaptations or biomes. Teams will express their scientific knowledge in a different language and practice respectful communication.


science journal app

Science Journal
Measure sound, light, and more using sensors in Android phones. As students collect data, they can record audio observations of their analyses. Have other students listen to the audio and see if they can interpret the results effectively.

For social studies classrooms


epals website

Collaborate with a class from around the world on various projects, or follow guided Experiences. As students video-chat with a partner class, practice nonverbal expressions and discuss what they may communicate to other cultures.


youth radio website

YR Media
Young journalists create media on topics such as graffiti or the economy. As kids listen to the clips, they can practice good posture and visualize the words. Use the toolkits to show kids how to listen critically and speak with a dynamic voice.

For all classrooms


seesaw: the learning journal app

Seesaw's digital portfolio allows students to submit a variety of work, such as videos or drawings, and then reflect on learning through a voice recording. Have students practice describing their work differently to parents, teachers, and themselves.


office sway app

Office Sway
Students can experiment with various communication styles in this storytelling app, by using text versus images, changing the scrolling direction, and more. They can test each style to find out which is most effective at reaching different audiences.

Engage families


Danny Wagner

Danny was Senior Editor, Education Reviews at Common Sense Education. His focus was on guiding the editorial direction of the Ratings & Reviews platform to discover the best in education technology. In addition to reviewing digital media for learning potential, Danny produced content and wrote articles for a variety of topics, including STEM and social and emotional learning. Previously, he was Curriculum Technology Integration Specialist for San Francisco Unified School District and a science and robotics teacher for a decade in the Midwest. Prior to his career in education, Danny worked as an Environmental Engineering consultant.