Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Speak UP

One of the major functions of the Common Core and the assessments that have followed those standards is to prepare students for college and career readiness.   Evidently the creators of the Common Core (mostly college professors) have not spent much time lately in the competitive workplace.   If they had they would have learned a few things.
When surveyed, 96% of private workplace employers say that the most important traits they look for in new employees is the ability to communicate in writing and in the spoken word.  They also look for people who can argue various points of view.
The problem is being able to express one's viewpoint through the spoken word is a skill that needs to be taught in a manner similar to learning to communicate through the written word.  Yet there is little to no time in school today to teach students how to present their own viewpoints and how to counter the viewpoints of others.   Then there is the issue of testing.  Unfortunately we teach what is tested.  Since no one is testing spoken language it is not being taught.
What to do?  Well the most obvious first level of attack is to squeeze some time into the school day for class discussion.  That means teachers talk less and students talk more.  This shift will not be easy to achieve.  One of the traits of teachers is that they are talkers and they like to hear themselves talk. They also like to help others so in  class discussion if there is a void, teachers will rush to fill it.  And very quickly students will learn that if they say little to nothing the teacher will jump into the breach and explain to them what they should be thinking.
All of this is very bad for learning to speak and express oneself verbally.  Teachers need to learn to ask questions such as: Can you tell me more about that?   Do you think everyone would agree with that opinion?  What other opinions might there be about that question?
Classes need to have discussions about topics for which there is no right answer and/or no pre-determined right answer.   It is not a discussion if yesterday we learned the causes of WWI and today student recite those causes during a period that is masquerading as a discussion.

Learning to speak and express views through spoken language is particularly important for kids with disabilities.  Very often their verbal language skills far exceed their spoken ones so those spoken skills need to be honed.  As educators we need to shut up more and have our students speak up.

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