Reflection: Positive Reinforcement Presenting & Discussing the Final Research Projects - Section 3: Application

 

I always say that the Common Core doesn't prescribe curriculum.  It just provides standards, and teachers decide how to meet those standards and with what resources.  However, I shouldn't really say "just" in that second sentence, as it's occurred to me that implementing the Common Core really requires a much larger (and I feel POSITIVE) change to the classroom.  This lesson is a great example of this realization in action.  The Common Core obviously emphasizes speaking and listening skills, but in order to implement these skills in your classroom, a very specific classroom climate has to be built. 

Public speaking is an extremely common fear, so many of my students arrive as anxious presenters.  I remember being absolutely terrified of public speaking through my early college career, so I can relate to these students!  (You know you fear public speaking when you sign up as a college freshman for the 8am Monday, Wednesday, Friday COMS 101 class in the hopes that fewer people would be in it!)  Even though I relate to the fear of public speaking, I also know that as an educator, students HAVE to get used to participating in speaking activities like speeches and discussions, both to meet the standards and to be college & career ready.  At some point, EVERYONE has to speak in public, and I feel terrible for ANYONE who is so fearful of initiating or participating in discussions that they avoid participation entirely.  This avoidance of speaking leads to very real consequences, including the inability to advocate for oneself.  While I offer some ways to reduce the amount of class-participation required for some students (like turning in Post-Its with comments in advance or collecting their feedback with other methods like emails or TodaysMeet.com), students are always required to participate in MOST activities.  In cases of resistance, I am unafraid to meet with students and parents to discuss my concerns and requirements, citing evidence to show how important speaking and listening skills are.  I've had even better luck with this since the implementation of the Common Core standards, which explicitly require it (thus validating my point of view!).  

Before instituting all of the speaking and listening strands, however, it's critical that teachers actively work to build a classroom environment of mutual trust and respect between not only the students and the teacher, but the students with other students as well.  An environment that seems adversarial or unsafe is probably the biggest inhibitor of fully applying this skill in the classroom.  I build my class's capacity for this from the beginning of the year, starting with the "Mama Opossum" discussion about my syllabus.  (Check back to that first lesson for an entertaining video of an opossum hissing!)  Throughout the year, I'm tough on students who are critical of their peers (in any way other than well-phrased, constructive criticism), and we routinely do "reminders" of good speaking or listening expectations like the video that preceded these presentations.  Only by continuously monitoring and fostering the growth of this environment can educators expect to genuinely implement the Speaking & Listening strand of the Common Core.  Luckily, once the environment exists and students have the skills required for presentation and discussion, presentation days like this become a whole lot of fun for students and teachers alike!  

  Embracing the Core's Focus on Speaking & Listening Requires a Positive, Respectful Climate
  Positive Reinforcement: Embracing the Core's Focus on Speaking & Listening Requires a Positive, Respectful Climate
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Presenting & Discussing the Final Research Projects

Unit 7: Drafting & Revising the Argumentative Research Paper
Lesson 7 of 7

Objective: SWBAT present extemporaneous speeches, pose critical questions about their peers' speeches, and respond to their peers' questions regarding their argumentative research project.

Big Idea: After a long, hard "research season," your students will be stoked to present & answer questions from peers about their research project!

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