Tag Archives: speaking

How do you promote speaking with English Language Learners?

The post below was originally written for Larry Ferlazzo’s Classroom Q & A blog on Education Week. It is part of a five post series addressing the question:

How do you promote speaking with English Language Learners?

Speaking is one of the core literacy skills, but ELL students might be shy or overwhelmed to participate in a large class discussion because of their language skills. Initiating small groups discussions and one-on-one discussions is a way for students to share thinking, questions, connections, and synthesis of a text, while at the same time building language and speaking skills. Doing so also addresses Common Core State Standards, which require students initiate and participate in a range of collaborative discussions (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9- 10.1).

Technology tools can help ELL students meet the demands of the curriculum and build understanding so they can meet learning objectives. As authors Heather Parris, Lisa Estrada, and Andrea Honigsfeld (2017) explained in ELL Frontiers: Using Technology to Enhance Instruction for English Learners, “The use of digital media provides a low-anxiety environment with a focus on the traditional four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing), plus the skill of viewing, which must be included in today’s classroom. ELs need ample production opportunities to develop language skills.”

To help ELL students develop academic language, consider having students respond orally using a video discussion platform, such as Flipgrid, Recap, or Seesaw. These tools remove the stress of performance in front of the class and give students the opportunity to present knowledge and ideas orally while at the same time build verbal communication. With these video discussion platforms, you pose a question for which students can record responses. You set the amount of time that students have to respond to a question; for example, students have one minute to answer a question or ninety seconds. Students can listen to each other’s reflections to learn from them and respond to one another. Flipgrid also offers stickers, similar to those on Snapchat, for students to digitally accessorize their look on camera. For students who don’t like to show their face on camera, you could keep a collection of masks or selfie props on hand for students to use when sharing.

On Seesaw students can add written reflections and draw their responses. Students have more options for how they might share and reflect by adding a drawing to explain their thinking or their steps for solving a math problem. Students can view each other’s written responses and add peer feedback with the app. Providing discussion starters or sentence frames can help students scaffold their response and plan out what they will say before posting a response on a video  discussion platform.

Both sentence stems and word banks are useful tools to help support students who are new to English Language.  Here are a few sentence frames from Achieve the Core that can be adapted to meet the needs of the students in your classroom:

Analysis:

  • I anticipate that
  • I think that  . . .  will happen because . . .
  • I think  . . .  might  . . .  because I know that . . .
  • If . . .  then . . .

Explanation:

  • One reason
  • Another reason
  • At first I thought

Cause and Effects:

  •  . . is most likely the cause for . . .
  • When  . . . happened then . . .
  • I think . . .  was caused  by . . .
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Qualities of Great Speakers: Building Student Speaking Skills

What are the qualities of a great speaker?

Who are the great speakers we can model?

If you mentioned Martin Luther King, Jr., what makes his a historic speaker? What are the qualities that he exudes in his speech writing and public speaking? What are some of the aspects of his public speaking we want our students to model?

What were the words or phrases that stuck with you throughout the speech?

How does King use his voice and body language to captivate his audience?

How does MLK utilize repetition in his speech to leave an impression on the listener?

What other “moves” does MLK use in his speech to make a lasting impression on his listeners?

Check out a list of Rhetorical Devices and Strategies that King uses throughout his speech.

Now, let’s look at John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration Speech in January 1961.

Whereas MLK wrote his own speeches, JFK wrote his speech with the help of his speech writer, Ted Sorenson. The phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country” was taken from JFK’s headmaster at Choate School when he was a student. He headmaster was known to say, “Ask not what your school can do for your; but what you can do for your school.”

What public speaking skills does JFK bring to the conversation?

How are JFK and MLK similar and different at orators?

The majority of famous speakers today draw inspiration and borrow devices from great public speakers of the past like Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy.

The voice is unique in its ability to communicate. There is no one good speaking voice, but most audiences agree that a pleasant, expressive voice has certain pleasing qualities. A good speaking voice is not born, but developed through training and practice. Through proper use of breathing, resonance, articulation, and pitch we can communicate more effectively.

Your voice and the way that you speak says a lot about you.

Your voice is your most influential tool in a speech situation.

Similar to reading, students are expected to learn public speaking in secondary school. But many of our students are not comfortable speaking in front of the whole class and do not understand that listening requires a person to give their undivided attention to the speaker (eye contact, body at rest, mouth closed, all distractions put away).  Many of us will teach or are already teaching ELL students or students with limited English speaking skills along with student who are proficient speakers. How do we support all of our students as public speakers? 

Speaking and Listening is part of the Common Core and starting by the first grade, “students are expected to know and be able to do the following during small- and whole-group discussions: follow participation rules, build on others’ comments, and ask clarifying questions.” By middle and high school the conversations and group work is more demanding. Speaking and listening must go beyond the “turn and talk” or “think pair share” opportunities we offer students during class activities. Students must also be able to present information to small groups and large audiences. Students can utilize technology and podcast or video their presentations too.

 What are creative ways that you can have students practice speaking and build their communication skills?  

Our job is to excite students about the world, to help them see the role that they can play in making society a better place, to express their ideas powerfully, to see that our content area is about real world problems, issues, and possible solutions. Our content areas should show students the world, not just tell them about it. Our curriculum needs to include role plays, simulations, debates, formal speeches, and demonstrations. Screen-casts, podcasts, and video projects are all great venues that allow students to utilize speaking and listening skills.

 

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What, exactly, do I say to students? Teacher Prompts that Promote Positive & Specific Directions

Have you ever had someone give you directions and you got completely lost? Or attempted to follow a recipe and the dish turned out awful? Maybe to were trying to recreate a craft or model you saw online and it turned out nothing like the original picture.

In my speech and debate class I used to have students write out the directions how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I set up a table in the front of the room with the main ingredients: bread, peanut butter and jelly. Then, I selected two volunteers: one student to read aloud his or her directions and the second volunteer to literally follow the directions exactly as they were being communicated. Here is where the challenge (and silliness) began. Giving clear, concise instructions to others is an important skill for young people to learn. In this activity, students practiced communicating ideas to others, recognizing steps in a process, and recognizing the importance of the use of clear language.

As teachers, we are always looking for ways to support student learning, articulate our objectives clearly, prompt students thinking or actions in positive and specific ways.  Here are more than a dozen positive and specific teacher prompts that cue student engagement, action, and thinking from George McClosky, Bob R. Van Divner, & Lisa Perkins’ list of “Self-Regulation Executive Function Definitions with Examples of Teacher Prompts.” No matter the student, classified or not, prompting in positive, specific, and brief directions helps all students succeed.

Perceive – “Everyone look at the board.”

“Listen to this.”

“Try and notice how . . .”

Modulate – “This is the kind of problem that requires a lot of thinking power to complete.”

Gauge – “What kind of thinking will this situation require?”

Sustain – “You might need to think longer about this if you want to come up with a good answer.”

Stop/Interrupt – “Please stop doing that.”

Inhibit – “Let’s listen to what XXX is saying.”

Hold – “Hold that thought while we continue.”

Manipulate – “Now take what you just said and try to think about what might happen next.”

Foresee/Plan (Short-term) – “Can you come up with a plan for solving . . .”

General/Associate – “Is this similar to any other  . . . . we have already done?”

Balance – “Be sure to look closely enough to see all the details.”

Store – “Remember what you just heard.”

Retrieve – “Who can recall what we saw . . .”

Time – “Spend about five minutes thinking about it.”

Monitor – “Look at each item carefully. Some require  . . . and some require . . .”

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