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Examples for male/female communication differences

These are four brief sample conversations that I wrote based on student suggestions about the differences in how men and women communicate. I would use these examples on tests with a question like “Based on what we have learned about how men and women communicate, identify five differences in communication style that are contributing to a misunderstanding.” Find the in-class activity that I used to generate these conversations here:

1. “What do you want for dinner?”

A couple are on a drive and the following conversation takes place:

Female:             “Do you want to get something to eat?”

Male:             “Sure. What kind of food do you want?”

Female:            “I don’t care.”

Male:             (pulls into a KFC)

Female:             (sighs loudly)

Male:            “What’s wrong?”

Female:             “Nothing, it’s just that I thought you knew that I don’t like chicken.”

Male:             “We can go somewhere else.”

Female:             “No this is OK, I’ll just have a Pepsi.”

Male:             “We can go get a pizza instead.”

Female:             “This is fine. I haven’t had pizza in a long time though.”

Male:             (Starts to leave parking lot)

Female:             “What are you doing?”

Male:             “Going to get pizza like you said.”

Female:      “I didn’t say to get pizza. I said we can do whatever you want and you want fried chicken so this is fine.”

Male:     “If changing your mind was an Olympic sport you would have a gold medal.” (laughs)

Female:     “What? Why are you being a jerk?”

Male:             (stops car) “Just make up your mind.”

Female:             “Stop yelling at me!”

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Suggestions for exam reviews

Although I prefer several short quizzes to a few major exams, there were times when I did longer exams and scheduled an exam review day. I used three different methods to make the reviews interactive:

  • Create a study guide: Break the students into groups (I find that random is best) and assign each group a portion of the material that will be on the test. Have each group write a variety of test questions on that material. You can set a certain number of multiple choice, short answer, essay, etc. Collect their questions at the end of class, mix multiple classes together, choose the questions that best represent your plans for the test and type them into a study guide (if you have the facilities, you could have the students type them and e-mail to you). Post the study guide or e-mail to students at least a day before the test. If there are any very good questions, you could add them to your test bank as well.

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Video for interpersonal communication

For an interpersonal communication class that has family communication as a topic or uses the Margaret Mead research on child-rearing, a great video is “Bill Cosby: Himself” — a stand-up routine from 1983.

In the latter part of the video, Cosby focuses specifically on family issues. As part of this, he describes children as “brain-damaged” and how they should behave versus how they do behave. Some of the material sounds a bit harsh to contemporary ears, but there is enough material there that you can edit to choose just a few segments.

I presented this to my class on the day we discussed the Mead material as another way people viewed children and to make the point that even within the U.S. there are variations.

Then on the exam over that unit, I referenced the video and asked students to explain which view from Mead’s article that Cosby’s description best matches and to justify their choice. It made a great test question to see what they got from the Mead article.

There are several portions of the video available at YouTube, the above is just one that is available.

Video and in-class activity for interpersonal communication

Link to video online

I Love Lucy: Season 2, Episode 4

The “Job Switching” episode of “I Love Lucy” is a classic. I did not have the time available in my public speaking classes to use this, but I did use it in interpersonal communication classes.

On the day set aside to review for the final exam, I would air the entire episode for the students. I would then break the students into groups and assign each group a topic from the course: gender communication, facework, nonverbal communication, etc. Each group then worked to find things from the episode that applied to something we had learned with that topic.

Each group would do a brief report at the end of class to review what we had learned in class on that topic and use examples from the video.

Bonus: The entire episode is currently available for free from CBS at the link above.

In-class activity for interpersonal comm: gender differences

After going over the observed differences between male and female communicators I ask the students to write a brief situation where a male and female have a misunderstanding based on these differences (real examples are allowed). I collect their examples and choose one or two to create a conversation that highlights the differences and include it as a test question: “In the following example, identify five differences in how males and females communicate that are causing this misunderstanding.”

Note: I have four such conversations targeted at college students already completed and posted here:

In-class activity for reasoning: fallacies

This is simple but an active way to introduce the ideas.

  • Sort the students into the same number of groups as the number of fallacies you wish to cover. (I like to have them count off to move around and work with someone new for this assignment).
  • Assign each group a fallacy from the list.
  • Have them use their books or, if you wish, the web site to define their fallacy and then to create an example.
  • Talk through the list, having students provide the definition and example (with any additions you want to make). I then follow up with my own examples and ask them to identify them.
  • Collect their fallacy examples and use the best ones on the test in a question like “identify the fallacy demonstrated in the following examples.”

This takes some time, but gets the students more involved in defining the fallacies and they like seeing their examples pop up on the test.

Update: In October 2012, I added a file with several test bank questions and original examples of fallacies here: teacherspayteachers

In-class activity for language

After reviewing elements of “powerless” speech (that is, speech techniques that can hurt credibility), I ask the students to break into small groups and write a horrible sentence. They should try to work in as many examples of powerless speech as they can.

When they finish, they read their examples to the class. I then collect the examples and put a couple of the sentences together and include it as a short answer question on the test — “Identify at least five types of powerless speech from the following example.”