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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Common Core Speaking and Listening Standard 1

Collaborative discussion is the topic of the first speaking and listening standard. College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Speaking and Listening 1 (CCRA.SL.1) states: "Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively." For third, fourth, and fifth grade students (SL.3.1/SL.4.1/SL.5.1) this means "engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3/4/5 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly." Four subsections elaborate on what intermediate students must do.

(1) SL.3.1aSL.4.1a, and SL.5.1a all state: "Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion."

Students need to come to class prepared and use that preparation to contribute to discussion in class. Wow! Wouldn't it be great if every student did this every day! As I read and reflected on this, I came to realize that I need to directly address it instead of expecting it to happen naturally. "Getting Students to Prepare for Class" gave me some helpful suggestions, and this lesson on being prepared for class will be a great way to start off the year. Helping my students better use their agendas is another goal of mine.

(2) SL.3.1b says that third graders should "follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion)". In addition to this, SL.4.1b and SL.5.1b also ask fourth and fifth graders to carry out assigned roles.

Using roles has made group work more productive and cut down on petty arguments in my class. These can be configured in a variety of ways. Many of the sources I reviewed suggested four roles: (1) leader or editor; (2) scribe, recorder, or secretary; (3) mentor or checker; and (4) reporter, spokesperson, press secretary, or webmaster. Five "Cooperative Group Role Cards" from ReadWriteThink break the roles into leader, recorder, time keeper, presenter, and errand monitor. While some teachers like to use the same set of roles throughout the year, I like to vary mine with the task at hand. Many times I'll just number the students (1, 2, 3, 4) and explain what I want each number to do.

Setting up the groups is the easiest part. Getting students to follow agreed-upon rules (and to be appropriate) is more difficult. Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D., has written an awesome activity booklet entitled 101 Ways to Teach Children Social Skills. This free teacher-friendly book contains 101 lesson plans with corresponding student sheets for skills ranging from tone of voice and eye contact to group problem solving. The great thing about this book is that you can pick and choose to address specific needs in your classroom.

(3) In third grade (SL.3.1c), students must "ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others." The fourth grade standard (SL.4.1c) goes one step farther by asking students to "pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others." And the Grade 5 (SL.5.1) standard states: "Pose and respond to specific questions by making comments that contribute to the discussion and elaborate on the remarks of others."

What does all of this mean?

  • Students must ask questions. Beginning in third grade, they need to ask questions (of the teacher or other students) to clarify points in a discussion. Older students should also learn to ask questions as a natural offshoot of the discussion, as well as preparing questions ahead of time.
  • They must stay on topic. The teacher can easily devise signals to let students know when they're off topic. (My class last year liked to try to get around this by beginning with, "This is off-topic, but..." Oh brother!)
  • Students must "link their comments to the remarks of others. To me, this is the art of "piggybacking." Since it doesn't sound extremely scientific, I was pleasantly surprised that the first article I found on this was a piece of research! "Teaching Children to Disagree" by Margaret Berry Wilson explains it well. In her article, she talks about using Interactive Modeling to get students to say things like "I want to piggyback on what ____ said," or "I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you, because on page ____ the author says...," or "I want to ask ____ a question about what he said because I'm not sure I agree." 

As we dig farther into this standard, it is clear that the Common Core State Standards are pushing the teacher to give up her role as "sage on the stage" and move over to become the "guide on the side."

(4)  Third graders must "explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion" for SL.3.1d. By fourth grade (SL.4.1d) they are required to "review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion." SL.5.1d says that fifth graders should also draw conclusions.

Again, students need appropriate ways to segue into their ideas. Since I couldn't find a clear, cohesive list for intermediate students, I quickly cobbled this together. Presenting students with a list is helpful, but I think it would be more powerful if the students collaborated to create their own list.

This standard is going to be on the top of my list of things to do at the beginning of the school year. I believe that coaching my students on coming to class prepared, responsibly carrying out discussion roles, answering and asking questions, and appropriately guiding the conversation to include their own points of view will make a huge improvement in my classroom.

Do you have any great ideas or resources to address this standard? I sure would love to hear them!

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