Sunday, June 4, 2017

Why Speaking and Listening are Essential at the Elementary Level

One of the easiest ways for me to integrate the English Language Arts curriculum into my teaching of elementary art is through the Speaking and Listening standards. I highly value these in my instruction. I build "talk time" into my instruction by giving the students prompts to discuss with partners and small groups. I usually provide a set timeframe for their talking depending on what topic I am giving them. I walk around to monitor they are on topic and being respectful. 
We practice listening as well. Kids know how to talk, believe me. They know how to make words come out of their mouths. They need to know how to make those words meaningful and how to listen to the words of others. These are life skills. These are skills they need in every single thing they will do every day for the rest of their lives. They are invaluable. I can't say enough things about how important these are. Sadly, I think they get overlooked in favor of things that are "tested." 
So, imagine how excited I was to read a Facebook post describing why a classroom teacher focuses so intently on the Speaking and Listening standards! My friend and colleague, Erica Webber-Jones is a top notch educator in Mississippi who also spends vast amounts of her time serving the Mississippi Association of Educators. 
I asked Erica to turn her Facebook post into a more detailed blog for me to share with Party in the Art Room readers. Below, you will find her words on why Speaking and Listening are essential at the elementary level. What Erica writes here is the core of why our schools are important. When I first read this, I felt a lot of emotion because I know she is right about all of it. I totally agree with her that educators must push for the Speaking and Listening standards to be viewed as essential. 
Be sure to join me in thanking Erica for this. Hope you enjoy!
Why Speaking and Listening are Essential at the Elementary Level
By Erica Webber-Jones
     Decoding words, describing the overall structure of a story, and comparing and contrasting versions of different stories are considered essential English Language Arts Standards at the elementary level.  There is one standard that I feel far surpasses these: speaking and listening.  In the age of smartphones and a wide array of digital devices, developing speaking and listening skills early on is essential.  
       Speaking and listening are life skills.  Our students must be able to engage in conversations.  Many educators may shy away from this standard, but this standard must be addressed early on.  I often discuss the importance of speaking and listening with my second graders.  I stress the importance of acquiring this skill early on.  We discuss how possessing this skill will get you through life whether you're presenting an important court case or launching a new business plan.  Students must be given an opportunity to engage in conversations with their peers often.  Too much time is spent preparing for a test.  No test is greater than the test of being able to effectively get your views across.  
      Speaking and listening skills learned in our classroom this year were able to diffuse potential fights. I watched eagerly as my students talked their way through disagreements. In a society where individuals are quick to reach for a gun and not likely to talk through disagreements this is vital.  Embedding speaking and listening early on allows for students to practice this skill.  Students are able to speak openly on various topics across the curriculum.  
    Educators must include speaking and listening activities daily.  Practicing wait-time, providing turn and talk sessions, and introducing speaking prompts are just a few ways that educators can include speaking and listening into an already jammed-pack curriculum.  We must push for this standard to become one that is viewed as highly essential.

Erica Webber-Jones
State Coach for TLI
Secretary-Treasurer 
Mississippi Association of Educators

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