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Common core

When listening becomes more important than telling

Posted on September 29, 2014 by Jaime Vandergrift

When listening is more important than talkingAt the beginning of every school year, teachers prepare for a new group of students and a year of new initiatives and policies that teachers and students must adapt to. We find ourselves doing a great deal of talking, sharing and modeling.  And at the end of the day, we have most likely talked ourselves into a circle. In elementary we often have to provide consistent reminders of those things for several weeks, if not months. Let’s face it; we do a lot of talking.

Whether you are like me (well into the first month) or just getting started, I hope you take a few moments to listen. I am not suggesting that we don’t talk to our students, or we don’t ask them to share about families, summer plans, or goals for the year. I think we do a great deal of that. What we might miss out on is at the heart of what kids want to talk about. This week, in the middle of teaching digital leadership lessons to K-5, I had quite a few students who just wanted to talk. They wanted to talk about their dog, their siblings, their favorite food. They wanted to just chat. Being that I only have 40-45 minutes with any group, I didn’t exactly allot much time for chatting. When time is tight, we often see these interjections as off task, and instructional interruptions. I wondered if possibly there would be a way to just let students have some time to chat, and came up with this suggestion. Maybe it is one you might use or adapt in your classroom.

  • Set some time aside each week as the year begins, and maybe throughout the year, set up a “stage,” and give students a brief window to just share what is swirling around in their minds.
  • Use it as a great language-arts opportunity, and have students submit a script or application to share with details about what they want to talk about.
  • Set up a spot in your room that serves as the stage. Give it a theme, and really set it up to highlight how important each child is, and what they have to share.
  • A few times a week, let students take the stage and share. What a great way to learn about your students, and give them time to get all that excitement out with an audience. Keep in mind this also falls into listening and speaking skills!
  • Use it as an opportunity to redirect students when they get off task during a lesson, and tell them their comment sounds like it would be a great topic for the stage. No longer will it seem like what they have to say isn’t important, and you also can get back into instruction much quicker!

I hope you find this little activity to be one that not only helps you to keep students more focused in class and also opens up time for students to shine, while also working on language arts objectives. Sometimes the simplest things can make the biggest differences!

Jaime Vendergrift guest blogger

Jaime Vandergrift
is an elementary technology specialist, experienced educator, presenter and conference planner. Jaime is a co-host of EduVue, an EdReach Network Live Education Show.  
Jaime is pursuing her EdS degree from the University of West Georgia in Media and Instructional Technology.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014 7:43 AM
Great insight!

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