If you follow this blog, you know that I’m a huge proponent of the workshop approach in my high school English class. For the past few years, I’ve used a combined reading and writing workshop with my tenth and twelfth graders, and it’s been a constantly evolving process. Every semester I’ve tweaked things that weren’t working and implemented new ideas to strengthen ones that were.
This year, I’m planning to build more speaking and listening into our weekly schedule because I believe that the development of these skills should be more than just an add-on. It’s not easy to cover everything, as you know, but I’m hoping that this plan will effectively blend all of the skills I want my students to work on.
There are two types of speaking skills that I want my kiddos to hone — the ones they need to give a speech or presentation and those they need to effectively participate in a group discussion. My plan is to give them the oppor-tunity to practice both by using incorporating it all into our reading and writing workshop.
How it will work:
Monday-Thursday will be dedicated to reading and writing workshop. On Fridays, kids will still have some time to read and write, but the bulk of the class will be dedicated to speaking and listening skills, primarily group discussion.
On Mondays, I will assign an article for them to read or a video to watch. They will need to annotate each article that they read, or take notes while they view the video. Then, on Friday, after ten minutes of silent reading, my mini-lessons will be dedicated to speaking and listening skills. For example, I will give a short over-view of the do’s and don’ts of eye contact; then students will pair up to take turns delivering a very short speech (less than a minute). I will either assign a topic or let them choose and give them a few minutes to decide what they will speak about. The content doesn’t matter, so it could be something simple like what I had for breakfast or what we did last class. When they deliver their short speech to their partners, they will focus on the skill covered in the mini-lesson, in this case, eye contact.
Devoting time to the various elements of effective public speaking will allow my students to concentrate on one skill at a time and give them time practice it, without getting overwhelmed with the other aspects of public speaking. Plus, it’s a safer way for them to do it, as they only have to present to one student.
As they are working, I’ll circulate to do any necessary pushing and prodding and will take note of students that may need to get some specific feedback later (Sarah, I noticed that you didn’t have any evidence from the article to support your points; Logan, you seem to be reluctant to participate in the discussion. What can we do to help you?).
After the first discussion, the kids will give each other some assessment regarding their participation and they will pass these, as well as their notes into me for recording. As I am using this as part of reading/writing workshop, we will end the class with some writing that is based on the topic for the week.
I’m excited about rolling this out. Speaking and listening skills have been taking a bit of a back seat with my new blended workshop, and I’m hoping that this is the perfect way to combine all three. If you’d like to use my lessons and activities, you can purchase them here. And, you can read about my new and improved lesson plans for workshop on this post.