I was that child that HATED public speaking. In fact, I’m still that adult that hates public speaking. As a child, it was worse though. Whenever my teacher had us reading ‘round robin style,’ I was the kid counting the paragraphs. This was not because I was a poor reader, but merely because I needed to know exactly what I was going to read when it was my turn. I was that child that spoke so softly I was told to, “Speak up!” again and again. I vividly remember one elementary school teacher, after realizing that imperative wasn’t going to occur, having me read a presentation in the hallway in a small group instead. And that knot, that knot in the stomach you get when you know you’ll have to speak, I know it all too well!
Perhaps I’ve found more confidence with time or perhaps I’ve realized that speaking is not only unavoidable, but also a necessary form of communication in the work place. Don’t get me wrong, I still get that pit in my stomach when I have to introduce myself in front of a large group of people I don’t know. I still get a little fidgety when I know I’m going to present to my staff. And in the words I’ve been known to say many times, “I do NOT do the intercom!” However, I’ve learned how to push myself outside of my comfort zone in order to be successful in teaching. On a side note: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had somebody say, “But you’re a teacher! You can’t be shy!” Let me just preface my article by saying speaking to children and speaking to your peers are two very different situations.
In Washington, our previous sets of standards had places that alluded to speaking and a teacher might have been able to make some connections to listening. However, the Common Core puts an emphasis on listening and speaking as part of the ELA standards. In fact, there are only four anchor standards in the ELA standards and one of them is entirely devoted to listening and speaking (the other three are reading, writing and language).
The message is clear! In order to help our students be ‘college and career ready,’ we must grow them as listeners and speakers. Listening and speaking are not just merely behaviors to be taught. My whole career I’ve started the year off with the ‘expectations talk’. You have too, I know. In that class meeting we’ve discussed what it means to be a good listener (mouths quiet, eyes on the speaker) and what it means to be a good speaker (raise your hand to speak, take turns). However, this isn’t what CCSS is asking. There is an expectation that students will leave high school ready to listen and speak as a way to gain and share information. This isn’t simply about being polite. In fact, CCSS gives us a broad range of listening and speaking that students must engage in:
Each summer for the last several years I’ve scored National Board portfolios. The portfolio I’ve worked on specifically looks at teachers’ ability to integrate listening, speaking and viewing as a way to gain and share information. While candidate submissions are confidential and thus I can’t share exactly what teachers are doing, I will say that teachers are doing it! There are many phenomenal teachers helping kids as young as 3 years old to understand how to share information with their peers, engage in accountable discussions, and listen and view in a discerning manner.
So what does this mean for me? I still open the school year with expectations. After all, behavior and social skills are important. Harry Wong would be proud! But I’m now more deliberate in planning opportunities for students to listen to media to gain information with graphic organizers. I’m more deliberate in engaging students in accountable discussions, using classroom norms and sentence stems for discussion. I’m more deliberate in providing opportunities for students to speak in groups and to the class about content, not just their weekend plans or favorite toy. The ways in which I use listening and speaking are moving up Bloom’s Taxonomy from sharing and describing to analyzing and defending positions.
Some of my favorite resources for finding ways to effectively teach listening and speaking as an interdisciplinary skill aligned to the CCSS are:
It is our job at teachers of the CCSS to help students become comfortable with speaking in small and large groups, understand that they are valuable contributors to the education of themselves and their peers, and engage students in interacting with others through a variety of media.
What are some of your favorite strategies to create strong listeners and speakers in the classroom?
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.