A student turns in this paper:
many people think that we should not have ginetticly modifyed foods we could be having health problems in the future if we eat them, Some studys say that they cause cancer. we should pass laws to stop this.
What do you do?
A) Nothing. That’s just how kids write.
B) Nothing. I want authentic writing, and I don’t want to devalue student voice.
C) Teach some lessons to help improve the writing.
Most of us will choose option C. We won’t do everything at once. We might teach a lesson about capitalization and give practice with capitalizing the first word of a sentence. We might then teach a lesson about “changing the y to i” before adding an ending and give some practice activities. We might reteach sentence structure with lessons about run-ons and then give some practice activities to help students identify run-ons.
A student turns in this work:
1/4 + 1/5 = 2/9 and 2/3 + 2/7 = 4/10
What do you do?
A) Nothing. That’s just how kids do math.
B) Nothing. I want authentic work, and I don’t want to devalue student work.
C) Teach some lessons to help improve adding fractions with unlike denominators.
Most of us will choose option C again. We will teach finding common multiples and give students lots of practice activities.
Two more examples: A 6th grader makes a book report podcast. An 11th grade student in your virtual class turns in this podcast: Composting
What do you do?
A) Nothing. That’s just how kids speak.
B) Nothing. I want authentic speaking, and I don’t want to devalue student voice.
C) Teach some lessons to help improve speaking.
In my experience, most teachers choose option A. In the case of these recordings, the teachers posted them to YouTube for the world to hear even though they are clearly “rough draft” speaking. (I’m guessing it was so poor that you didn’t even listen to the end of either podcast.) I have had a few teachers choose option B, claiming that they don’t teach speaking because they value “authentic” speech, as if a child cannot be both well-spoken and authentic. I have found almost no teachers who teach specific lessons with guided practice about speaking skills. Here, teachers showed students how to hit record, how to add music, BUT NOT HOW TO SPEAK WELL.
We live in an age where speaking well matters. Digital tools showcase speaking: Zoom, Webex, podcasts, videos, Facetime, Skype, webinars, video conferences, and more. Unfortunately, many teachers fail to pay attention to poor speaking, fail to give needed lessons, and fail to give teaching oral communication the instruction time it deserves. Many teachers watch students speaking poorly and do nothing to help them. We watch kids suffer through the “About Me” talks they are forced to do at the start of the new school year and ignore the fact that most are unprepared as speakers. (“That’s just how kids speak.”) We make kids talk after the poetry unit and ignore the fact that most of the recitations are quiet poor. (“That’s just how kids speak.”) We have students do their biography/country presentations and ignore the fact that most listeners were not particularly engaged and two days later would be able to tell you almost nothing about the reports they heard. (“That’s just how kids speak.”) If you listen with new ears, it will be painfully obvious that we have shortchanged our students and failed to give them needed instruction about how to speak well.
Here is an example of the problem: https://youtu.be/KmnoAxptUsA How could the teacher that put this up on YouTube (with identifying information that I removed!) not have noticed that the kids in front of the green screen need help with basic speaking skills? How could he/she have thought that this was the best kids can do? Shame on you for selling these kids short and posting a video for the world to see that fails to show how well they are capable of speaking.
In the “composting” case, I would teach a lesson about Life, adding passion/feeling/emotion to make the talk more interesting, and I would offer practice with little phrases and little speeches so students can develop life. Then I would teach some lessons about Speed, adjusting pace to make a talk more interesting and effective. I would offer practice with some little speeches so students can learn to adjust speed well. See some ideas here: http://pvlegs.com/activities/. Do you see those kinds of lessons and practice activities in your school?
Here are 4th graders giving book talks after receiving instruction: https://youtu.be/WXn6-hs0fIc Big difference between this and the green screen kids, isn’t there?
Sadly, speaking skills are an afterthought in most materials out there. There are few materials that specifically show teachers how to help students master oral communication, but there are some:
A book focused exclusively on teaching all students to speak well: goo.gl/dgoSS7
An enhanced ebook FREE FOR THE ASKING with many audio and video examples of student talks and teachers working with students:
A one-hour video: http://streaming.ascd.org/watch/view-all/5114243528001/listen-up-speaking-matters
A CD FREE FOR THE ASKING about how to approach speaking skills at the elementary level, the middle school level, and the high school level.
A book focused exclusively on explaining listening and speaking standards with lesson ideas and activities: goo.gl/4iJh1G
An article about teaching speaking: https://acrobat.adobe.com/link/review?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3A05aa8932-5668-453f-92ff-c520fa862912#pageNum=1
A website devoted to showing how to teach speaking: pvlegs.com
A short video with animated words about how to teach speaking: goo.gl/ven2jp
It is time to quit shortchanging our students. We have expected too little and have failed to give them needed help. Let’s help them with speaking the way we help them with writing, with math, and with all other subjects. They deserve a chance to be well-spoken.
I appreciate the well reasoned points and the extensive resources. I will definitely use them. I hope this idea spreads to more educators. Learning to speak well should be an essential component in every curriculum. But we still need to address the problem that whatever is tested gets taught. In reality, it is not the other way around.
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