One of the strands of standards that often gets overshadowed by reading and writing in the English classroom is Speaking and Listening. We all know these communication standards are important as students enter the workforce and the social world at large, but are we giving students the opportunity to really grow in the area of communication often enough over the course of the school year? Cade noticed this problem and came up with a solution that brings student choice, ELA standards, and ELA content together. He calls it Mission: Engage Discussion.
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Here are some examples from Cade’s sophomore classes:
And a few from Michelle’s freshmen classes:
One more thing. It’s possible you want to take this an extra step. How can you encourage students to get started with their weekly class discussion contributions early in the week instead of waiting till Wednesday or Thursday? Here are a few ideas we use:
- Get every student to bring an inexpensive plastic cup to school. It can be a basic solo cup, a cup with pictures of their favorite team or TV show (e.g., one student in Cade’s classroom has a My Little Pony cup, and the contest between Auburn and Alabama cups is pretty tight). Provide students a stash of cheap army men, pop poms, farm animals, zombies, or whatever you can get a bag of for a dollar apiece at the dollar store. When they contribute to in-class discussion or come in the day after contributing an evening of posting in digital discussions, have them grab an item for each contribution and place it in their cups. This serves as a reward for the students, as well as a reminder to them of their week’s progress, and it gives the teacher a daily idea (i.e., as formative assessment) of the extent of their course engagement.
- Post teacher-created prompts early in the week, and make sure they are relate the latest text, topic, or skill to something relevant to them.
- As a prompt, give students a race: Challenge them to be one of the first five to post a recent news article related to a topic, song that expresses the same sentiment as a character in a text, or picture/video that represents a theme of a text. This gets them moving quickly, but also serves as a hub for continued student discussion throughout the week.