I’ve been thinking lately about the Speaking and Listening Standards. I know, get a life Jackson! But seriously, I thought about this: if the SL Standards were not absolutely vital to the success of all of the other Standards (W, L, RI, RL), then why would they be their own strand of Standards? It would have been very easy for the authors of the Standards to just “embed” the SL skills in the other strands of Standards – I mean they DO fit so naturally, so why not just embed them within the RI, RL, W and L Standards?

While I don’t know for sure, it would seem pretty logical that the reason why the SL Standards exist is because they are truly THAT important to stand on their own! Yes, I know, I am a genius. Ha!

So, as my team and I have been breaking down these Standards into their tiniest pieces so that we can make some sense of it all for folks, we have come to realize that the SL Standards are so embedded in EVERY Standard that, without them being a strand of their own, it would be easy to make assumptions that we’ve already taught kids how to speak and listen. I notice that happens sometimes when things are not free-standing…we start to make assumptions that we’re teaching them.

So over the course of the next couple of months, I’ll continue to break down the SL Standards – they truly are the fuel for all other Standards. It really brings it home, too, when you look at the performance task samples from PARCC and see that part of the extended multi-day task involves students being scored on a Speaking and Listening rubric. Hmmm…I suppose we ought to pay attention to that!

I want us to start from a very simple place: the difference between discussion (a very important part of the SL Standards – in fact, it’s Standard #1 in SL for every grade level) and responding. I know that for me, I have spent so much time focusing on student engagement, that I think I’ve fallen into the habit of thinking that by having students RESPOND, they are DISCUSSING. And now that I think of it, I haven’t done the best job of teaching discussion…and that has to change.

So take a look at this slide, which should be our starting point as we study and implement the CCSS:

response v discussion

This simple slide outlines something that I believe we all need to look at in order to be SL masters: the difference between responding and discussing.

Are you planning for a lot of responding in your class…but planning less so for discussion? What would I see in your classroom if I were a fly on the wall?

The big idea is this: in order for us to really get in line with the SL Standard at any grade level, we have to distinguish between the different forms of “chatter” in the classroom. There are times when we want a simple response – possibly a unison response. But it’s just that: a response. BUT, the Standards are very clear that students need to not only know HOW to have a discussion, but have discussions regularly!

So, one way that we can incorporate discussion into our classroom more often is to plan for it. (Yes, another genius statement, I know…shock and awe, people! Ha!) Right now, open up your Standards document or free CCSS app on your smartphone and look at the SL.1 for your grade level. It is a rubric, essentially. Do you see the first thing on the list? Follow agreed-upon discussion rules?

I want you to make 3 simple rules right now…rules that, if followed, would allow your kids to have a back and forth discussion. Better than even rules, I like to think of “discussion habits” – the things that good discussers do.

Now take those 3 simple rules and add the first one to your next week of lessons, then the second rule to the week after that…and so on. You have now planned to teach the habits/behaviors/rules that are the foundation to SL success.

See how simple that it? That’s really what it takes to get these Standards into your lesson planner.