Lesson Plans in Robotics for Middle School Students that Foster Positive Communication Skills

Lesson Plans in Robotics for Middle School Students that Foster Positive Communication Skills

Picture a room filled with 8, 9, and 10-year-olds sitting around in their science class, with robotics gears and gadgets spread around the room. These kids are about to dig into the world of robotics in a whole new way. The energy in the room is almost tangible, and the teacher is able to harness her students’ attention like never before.

For many students and parents, the primary focus of robotics in the classroom is to introduce and expand students’ knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But the truth is, there are many side effects just as important, that sometimes go unnoticed.

One of these major secondary benefits of robotics is communication, especially among peers. Teachers can skillfully build lesson plans in robotics for middle school students that foster positive communication skills. In a world of sharing new ideas, pitching points of view, and selling big concepts, it’s critical that students are prepared with the skills to properly explain and defend themselves.

So how exactly is communication carried out when robotics are brought into the classroom?

Teacher or Parent-Student Instruction

Lesson plans focused on robotics through communication for middle school students must focus in part on students’ listening skills, as general class protocol and directions as laid out. Most often, these directions come from the lead instructor, small group leader, or parent. Based on oral and verbal skills and perhaps a few visual aids, students must deduce the task at hand, and the process that will take them from start to finish.

Whereas other classroom experiments and activities may call on students to follow the exact procedure the teacher has set out without variation, when it comes to robotics, it’s critical that students listen to the task set out for them, but are also given a chance to interpret and problem-solve.



Student-Group Organization of Process

The majority of robotics communication lessons plans in robotics for middle school students should then focus on peer communication as students break off into smaller groups. In the ideal scenario, depending on ages of students, groups will take initiative in assigning each team member a principal role. (Of course for younger and beginner students, a parent or instructor may need to step in.)

As students begin to delegate principal roles, each team member will be able to advocate their personal strengths (and weaknesses). Students become not only more aware of their own talents, but now also feel a sense of responsibility to deliver. Ultimately, each student feels equally responsible for the success of the robotics kit.

Since constructing the robot is based on a trial and error scenario, students will have to communicate regularly among themselves to determine what is working well, and what should be tweaked or changed. Through the process, students will build a repertoire with each other that will encompass constructive but supportive language.

Some students in the group will be shyer than others. However, in a small group setting, with a specific task assigned, shy students will have the opportunity to speak up and have their voices heard.

By vocalizing successes and setbacks throughout the robotics building process, students will work through complex issues of how to build strong, efficient, and effective parts as a team and ultimately how to articulate the design and building process.

Student-Class Explanation of Execution

It’s not only other members of the group students must sell their ideas to, but to the class at large when they present their robots. Lesson plans in robotics for middle school students should take advantage of this really three-fold benefit.

Firstly, students in the class will get to hear about how other groups carried out their design and building process. They’ll learn about what tough decisions were made, and how that affected their final robot design. By hearing from several other groups, they’ll also understand that there’s more than one solution to many scientific problems.

Secondly, the group presenting will be able to explain the functions of their robot and the process of building in a succinct manner. Since they’ve already had practice communicating these ideas in a small group, all students should feel better equipped to present to a larger group of students.

Thirdly, students will gain a heightened sense of self-confidence when they’re able to show off exactly how they contributed to the success of their group. They’ll take turns taking credit for, but also shedding light on other students’ achievements within the group. 

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Girls in Science

Robotics in the classroom is one of many efforts to get girls interested in science, as well as engineering, math, and technology. Oftentimes girls lack female role models in these fields. Unfortunately, many girls are simply not expected to have a peaked interest in STEM fields, to perform highly, or to take on a career in that given field.

Lesson plans focused on communication in robotics for middle school students can change the way girls see science. Many times in large classroom settings, science-based or not, girls are not given the same chance to share their ideas or in other cases simply have not built up the confidence to do so. Students who do not feel they can freely communicate their thoughts do not develop those thoughts in the same way of those who regularly add to classroom discussion.

The world of robotics offers up new avenues for girls not only to explore but also to work as a team to voice their opinions, then share those same results in large group settings. Robotics in classrooms can equalize the playing field and give girls a chance to be heard too.

Robotics are a game changer in classrooms both big and small. A positive introduction to the STEM fields is undeniable, yet, we can cast our net wider about the benefits robotics are having on our children and students.

Communication skills are necessary for absolutely every career path and interpersonal relationship. The benefits of listening to others’ ideas and voicing your own clearly simply cannot be overstated.

All students, no matter their academic and personal interests, can use robotics workshops as a vehicle for discovering new hobbies, passions, or career paths in the science world and beyond.

Derek Capo