Tuesday, December 19, 2017

8 ideas for teaching listening and speaking skills

Literacy used to be defined as the ability to read and write. Today, it means so much more. Literacy today is about being able to read, write, listen, and speak effectively. Literacy strategies must be taught and used by students to understand and analyze information, summarize, and communicate, and it’s quickly becoming a collaborative activity. 

Speaking is an important skill, and it is more than oral presentations. 

Read below the Common Core literacy standards and college and career readiness expectations for speaking and listening for 9th and 10th graders. (Even if you don't agree with Common Core, the standards and expectations below are good ones.)



Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed. 
Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions. 
Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.

How do we teach the skills listed above? Will asking questions to the whole class and calling on students be enough to ensure that all of our students possess these skills? 

There is no simple answer to teaching literacy. In this post I want to share some practical ideas for the classroom on teaching the standard and expectations listed above. I would also love to hear your ideas, so that we can all learn from each other. 

When encouraging discussion-based learning and leading students in skills of collaboration, there must first be a culture of respect in the classroom community. Empathy and trust must be modeled and expected in all discussions, especially when there are diverse perspectives that are shared and discussed. 

The questions that are asked are important. Ask questions that can be be defended or discussed from multiple perspectives. Such as "Why does it matter?" "What can we do about it?" 

Use a self-reflection tool, related to the CCR expectations. Allow students to take ownership of their actions. Keep them accountable. Discuss your expectations and their self-reflections and coach students on goal-setting and ways to improve.

Use wait time. Mary Budd Rowe published a paper in 1972 that summarized five years of study of wait times. She observed that when teachers allowed 3 - 5 seconds of wait time, there were a number of positive changes in the classroom.
“There are increases in the length of the response, the number of unsolicited appropriate responses, student confidence, incidence of speculative responses, incidence of child-child data comparisons, incidence of evidence-inference statements, frequency of student questions, and incidence of responses from “relatively slow” students. The number of teacher questions which do not elicit a response decreases.” (Rowe, 1972)

Discuss the discussion. Talk with students about what was learned in the discussion. Talk about what worked well and what didn’t, and set goals for the next one. 

Reward active listening, goal achievement, and preparation and participation. The rewards will look different in every classroom and for different students. High fives, extra screen time, use of cell phones, and choice seating are a few options that could be used with students. (Notice that I didn't use grades as a reward.)

Sometimes kids just need the words to help them start or participate in discussions. The chart below is one that I adapted from a "Math Talk" poster. (I can't credit the source - if it is yours or you know where to credit it, please let me know.)

You can download the free printable be right-clicking on the image and choosing Save As. You can also download the PDF here. 

Digital tools such as podcasting and creating videos are other ways to teach listening and speaking skills in the classroom. Here's a great post from the Teaching Channel called Literacy in the Digital Age: Nine Great Speaking and Listening Tools

Perhaps you have used or have seen other strategies for teaching listening and speaking skills. Please share in the comments so that we can all learn together. 

Rowe, M B 1972, “Wait-Time and Rewards as Instructional Variables: Their Influence on Language, Logic, and Fate Control” in Resources in Education, Education Resources Information Center, Presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Chicago, Illinois, April 1972, viewed on 19 December 2017, http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED061103

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    I have read your blog and I am so impressed that these ideas proved very useful to improve my literacy skills. Now I concentrate on my studies very well. Thank you so much for sharing this.