Evidence-Based Instruction for Listening & Speaking

Instructor: Emily Hamm

Emily has B.S. in elementary education and a M.S. in educational technology. She teaches full-time, works as an adjunct professor, and is a freelancer.

The objective of this lesson is to cover research-based speaking and listening strategies that will help teachers of English Language Arts build these skills for a variety of social and academic purposes.

English Language Arts Requirements

''Shhhhhhh!!!'' Many teachers spend a lot of time in a classroom getting students to quiet down. However, in English Language Arts (ELA) class, students are required to have highly developed skills in the area of speaking and listening. These skills allow students to develop their verbal and auditory processes.

Speaking and listening skills include areas such as collaboration, evaluation, and presentation. In the classroom, teachers should focus on the concept of collegial discussion skills. This is a way to gather more information with an open mind rather than debate every concept with an ingrained belief.

Debates serve a purpose too in the development of speaking and listening skills. However, students need research-based strategies to help them develop knowledge for when a situation calls for different types of speaking and listening.

Practicing the proper way to listen and speak based on the situation is a highly employable skill that students need. But the method of the teacher as the 'sage on the stage' is giving way to a 'guide on the side' style, so teachers need practical ways to implement formal speaking and listening practices in their classrooms. These techniques are research-based methods of building student skills in this area.

Socratic Seminar

One technique that helps ELA teachers implement skills in the area of speaking and listening is the Socratic Seminar, based on the Greek philosopher, Socrates, who argued that focused conversation was the best way to gain authentic and sound information.

In the Socratic Seminar, students craft questions about a text that will open a dialogue and move the discussion to a deeper level. During this dialogue, the goal is to have thoughtful exchanges that grow their knowledge and understanding of the topic, world, and themselves.

Socratic Seminar participants bring their text and questions. Although there are slightly different formats, most include an inner and outer circle.

  • Students in the inner circle ask their questions, dialogue, refer to the text, listen, reflect, and pull others into the conversation.
  • Students in the outer circle are silent and, instead of speaking, have a partner they are watching. While watching, they mark the times the partner engaged with or broke the principles of the seminar (such as asked a question, spoke well, interrupted, etc.).

Inner and outer circles rotate out. This allows all members to participate and the teacher to determine an acceptable amount of time for this dialogue.

Socratic Smackdown

One spin-off of the Socratic seminar is called a Socratic Smackdown. This is similar in that it promotes quality dialogue and discussion. However, a Socratic Smackdown turns the conversation into a bit of a competition where individuals work as team. Points are awarded for positive and acceptable behaviors and deducted for negative ones. This

In some cases, students participate by sending one member from each team at a time. Other times, teachers will have an entire team enter the inner circle to dialogue on the topic for a specific amount of time. This allows each team to work toward earning as many points as possible in the dialogue.

Pop-up Debate

A pop-up debate is a less formal, low preparation way to engage students in building their speaking and listening skills.

In this practice, teachers write a debatable statement on the board or project it digitally. This could apply to any piece of prose that the class has read. Examples include: ''This character was wrong to do action XYZ.'' Once students know the topic, the teacher gives them a required numbered of times they must speak during the pop-up debate.

Once the debate has started, students must stand beside their desk while speaking their opinion on the topic and backing it up with relevant evidence. If more than one student stands, one must concede the floor. However, everyone is required to share equally, so no one is given an advantage by going first or last.

The teacher listens to the debate and tallies on the board each time a student speaks. Once the student has used all their turns, they are done speaking in the debate. The debate isn't finished until every student has spoken the required number of times.

The pop-up debate allows for quick or more drawn out debates that helps students build their speaking and listening skills.

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