Honestly, I don't do a lot of assessment of student discussion in my classroom. We read, write, and discuss, but not to the extent that was discussed in this chapter. Although I strongly agree that talk matters and that speaking and listening should be taught regularly, I've never thought about formally assessing student discussion at length. I will be using many of the strategies mentioned in this chapter in the coming school year.
Some of my favorite strategies from this chapter are: interrupted book report, 4X4 debate, say something, teach us something, and book soundtrack. It was hard to focus my choices because I can see a use for each of the strategies Gallagher presented. I'm excited to try some new stuff!
I love the idea of formative and summative assessing through oral presentations rather than always going back to written work. In the high school classrooms where we will be teaching six classes next year (as opposed to the five we're used to teaching), assigning grades to speaking and listening assignments can cut back on some of the paper and pencil grading we usually do, saving a lot of time, but still giving students valuable feedback and developing other important skills.
Last year, I had a student teacher who helped convince me that 8th graders CAN successfully engage in socratic seminars. I always thought that was more of a high school activity and thought giving 8th graders that kind of freedom was a little scary. My advanced English class LOVED the socratic seminars we held, and I sat there amazed with the discussion and points my students brought up about their reading... and I didn't even need to lead them there. It was truly a lightbulb moment not just for my year but probably for my whole career. This year, I plan to use socratic seminars A LOT with our reading and will do variations of whole-class and group seminars to foster discussion in my classes.
The activities that I think I'll try from this chapter include the Interrupted Report and the 4 x 4 debate. I also really liked all of the listening skill activities and want to do the old favorite "telephone game" with my students towards the beginning of the year. I also want to do the "Add One" activity where students take notes while watching a short video documentary and then they have to go around and say one of their facts that no one else had said to stay in the game.
I think all of the activities and lessons that Gallagher is presenting in this book are leading me to revamp my teaching to make it more interactive and engaging which will really benefit my students next year.
I agree with Lindsey that utilizing some of Gallagher's strategies here can help us cut down on traditional grading within our new schedule. I'm always so pleased with myself when individuals or groups finish presentations & I already have all the grading done!
In my classroom currently I require students to memorize poems (1 per month) & recite them. This can be done just to me or in front of the whole class, but as we review the poem each day, I see some of my more silent students growing more comfortable speaking out (true, they are just reading/reciting lines, but this is more than some would ever do on their own). I also require students to watch TedTalks & write a response to them. I like that because it does require listening & attentiveness to what's in front of them. The other major speaking element that I require in my classroom is the Socratic Seminar. Once students understand it & get the hang of what's required, those are always my favorite days.
In the year I taught ELL, speaking & listening were weighed as heavily as reading & writing. They were equally tested.
From this chapter I like the 2x2 Speech, the 4x4 Debate, & the Book Soundtrack. So many inspiring ideas here.
I've always assessed students' contributions to discussion. Early in the year, I just focus on whether they speak up at all; as the year progresses, I assess more on quality rather than quantity.
The problem? Shy students often aren't comfortable contributing. Or there's someone in the class who becomes confrontational (even after coaching from me), so other kids don't want to say anything. And I don't like putting kids on the spot, so . . . I've started offering alternatives. Don't want to give a speech? Video yourself at home and play the recording instead. I've started using back-channel chats with Today's Meet to allow students the opportunity to TYPE their discussion responses while we're having an oral discussion. I actually really liked that.
Gallagher's chapter really made me think. *Should* I be offering all of these alternatives? Or should I hold strong and require the actual speech/conversation? I'm still wrestling with this question. I agree, though, with Gallagher that these skills are some of the most practical that we can teach our students. I just want to honor different personalities (as an introvert, I've become more and more aware of our society's value for outgoing extroverts [read Susan Cain's *Quiet* if you want to know more]).
Anyway, as you can tell, I have no resolution here, just lots of questions and thoughts and great ideas from Gallagher. :) I imagine I'll end up somewhere in the middle, occasionally offering options and requiring "traditional" participation during other assignments.
This chapter will be dogeared for review this year! I do some of these on a regular basis, but there are so many great ideas in here. Something I have that just converted from old Apple files (with Obe's help if anyone else has old stuff you want to keep) is an activity out of a great little book Learning Discussion Skills through Games. It's a mystery to solve where you give each kid a clue (or two, depending on class size); the only way they are allowed to solve it is by sharing their clues orally. They have to organize themselves (really fun to watch who emerges as leader.. not always who you'd think) and solve murderer/where/when/motive... sort of Clue-ish. I time them and pit them against other classes for a reward. It is fun to use early on as they are beginning to set a class chemistry...kind of risk free discussion fun. I'll be glad to share; this chapter just made me pull it back up for this year. I'll share if anyone wants it.
Dee, I'd love a copy--that sounds wonderful!
Language Arts book and we began implementing some of the strategies from the book to increase the quantity and quality of student talk. It was sometimes hard to be quiet and let the students do more of the talking, but I did see the value of doing so very quickly. I again used frames, this time for oral responses. Students were required to use whole sentences and specific, academic language when responding to a small group or a partner. I also had students repeat what they had heard their partner say to help the speaker understand what she had/hadn’t communicated to the listener.
As I read this chapter I really connected with the 2x2 speech. So often, my students give answers that are correct, but wouldn’t make sense out of context. I ask them to pretend you are talking to someone who hasn’t read this story. That can be a tall order for some. I can see where having two different speeches for two different audiences would help them recognize the importance of considering the audience.
I am embarrassed to admit that I need to spend more time on listening and speaking skills. There are a number of ideas that I would like to implement this year:
- Analyzing vocal “moves” and mannerisms of reporters. Practice reading news stories using stories from News-O-Matic.
- Using Interrupted Book Reports for books or stories that we have all read.
- Creating and sharing summaries using the “inverted pyramid format.”
- Presenting the same speech topic to two very different audiences.
This chapter has prompted me to bring back the “teach us something” and “tell a joke” activities that I have done in the past.
Kimber Tate, Coordinator of English, Reading and Libraries