Common Core Standards: ELA
ELA: KINDERGARTEN - GRADE 12
LITERACY: GRADES 6 - 12
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening
Speaking and Listening CCRA.SL.1
Comprehension and Collaboration
1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Finding a job in which you will never have to speak in order to succeed is like finding a four-leaf clover: it can be done, but you automatically qualify as “lucky” just for pulling it off. (We at Shmoop can think of two such jobs: hermetic writer and eccentric artist. And even these people probably have to do book readings and museum launches and things.) For the rest of us, being able to converse with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and on a wide variety of topics is a must.
College will prepare our young ones for the real world by requiring them to present and debate and discuss in their classes, both individually and in groups. And since we wouldn’t want them to have that classic deer-in-headlights expression in their college classes, we’re going to get them started early on this whole coversation-and-collaboration dealio.
Here are some activities and question-and-answer exercises you can use in your classes to get your students to talk and present their ideas clearly and logically:
Sample Activities for Use in Class
1. Divide students into pairs or small groups. Have each pair or group choose a person to speak first, and give the non-speaker or speaker a pile of index cards on which are written one of the staple questions: Who?, Why?, What?, When?, Where? and How?.
The speaker begins by making a short statement of an opinion, such as “Johnny Depp is the best actor alive.” The non-speaker responds by reading the top card in his or her pile. The speaker responds by answering the question. Continue until all the cards have been used, then have the speaker switch places with the non-speaker, shuffle the cards, and begin again.
Often, a question on a card will not seem to match up with the statement given. For instance, the speaker might say “Johnny Depp is the best actor alive,” and the non-speaker may respond with “When?” Rather than skipping the question, the speaker should try to interpret it so that it can be answered. For instance, the question “When?” might be answered with “Ever since he appeared in Pirates of the Carribbean. I don’t count his early movies because they were terrible.”
2. Choose a student for each role and have them read the following scene from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest:
LADY BRACKNELL. May I ask if it is in this house that your invalid friend Mr. Bunbury resides?
ALGERNON. [Stammering.] Oh! No! Bunbury doesn’t live here. Bunbury is somewhere else at present. In fact, Bunbury is dead,
LADY BRACKNELL. Dead! When did Mr. Bunbury die? His death must have been extremely sudden.
ALGERNON. [Airily.] Oh! I killed Bunbury this afternoon. I mean poor Bunbury died this afternoon.
LADY BRACKNELL. What did he die of?
ALGERNON. Bunbury? Oh, he was quite exploded.
LADY BRACKNELL. Exploded! Was he the victim of a revolutionary outrage? I was not aware that Mr. Bunbury was interested in social legislation. If so, he is well punished for his morbidity.
ALGERNON. My dear Aunt Augusta, I mean he was found out! The doctors found out that Bunbury could not live, that is what I mean—so Bunbury died.
LADY BRACKNELL. He seems to have had great confidence in the opinion of his physicians. I am glad, however, that he made up his mind at the last to some definite course of action, and acted under proper medical advice.
i. If you were to ask each of the speakers who “Bunbury” is, what would each of them likely say?
(Possible Answers: Algernon knows that Bunbury is fictional, so he makes up a story about how Bunbury, who has been sick for some time, finally died. It’s a pretty transparent story, though; apparently the poor fellow died because his doctors told him to stop living. Luckily for Algernon, Lady Bracknell is too dense to realize this, so she simple applauds Bunbury for finally picking an option between “get well” and “die,” instead of hanging around in a state of illness forever. Alternately, students might think Algernon really did kill Bunbury and is trying to cover it up, in which case he’s still lucky that Lady Bracknell is so impossibly dense.
Lady Bracknell, meanwhile, seems to think that Bunbury is and always has been a real person. She also obviously doesn’t think much of invalids, people with “revolutionary” political ideas, or people who do not take their doctors’ advice. In fact, it’s fair to say Lady Bracknell doesn’t think much at all.)
ii. If you were Lady Bracknell, how would you respond to the news that Bunbury, Algernon’s sick friend whom you have never met, is dead? How would that differ from the way Lady Bracknell responds here?
(Possible Answers: Most people are going to react much more strongly to the news that Bunbury is dead and especially to Algernon’s slip that he killed Bunbury. Reactions might range from sympathy to suspicion to outrage. In most cases, students are going to respond to the words much less densely than Lady Bracknell and with greater concern for Bunbury’s well-being, rather than for Bunbury’s good sense in agreeing to die per his doctor’s advice.)
Have students pair up and write down seven to ten interview questions to ask the other person. (You may wish to put students in pairs in order to avoid teams “interviewing” their best friends.) Offer a few examples, such as “What's the most interesting trip you've ever taken?” or “Tell me about your favorite sport.” Tell students to avoid questions that can be answered with one word, such as “Do you like school?” or “Where were you born?”, if possible. They can use these kinds of questions for follow-up, if needed.
Once students have developed their list of questions, have each person in the pair interview the other, with the youngest member of the pair asking questions first. Tell students that they should start with their questions but should not stick to them. Instead, they should listen to their partners, asking any follow-up or additional questions that come to mind after the other person speaks. For instance, if the person being interviewed starts talking about how the most interesting trip she's ever taken was a cruise to Alaska, the other person should ask follow-up questions like, “What time of year was it?”, “Did you see any polar bears/seals/wolves?”, or “What was the best thing on the cruise ship?”, instead of jumping ahead to his next question. Students may move on to the next question only if the conversation stalls.
Give students 10-15 minutes each to interview their partners (20-30 minutes total), then reconvene the class and discuss what they learned about keeping a conversation going.
4. Bogus Adventure Stories
This activity works best with smaller classes; or, you may wish to break students into groups of 8 to 12 people apiece.
Have the class or groups sit in a circle where they can hear one another. One person in each circle begins an adventure story by giving a setting such as, “I was in the haunted house up on Beech Street by the cemetery last weekend. It was dark, and the wind howled in the trees. I had gone up to the house because....” The person sitting to the right of the person who began the story continues, adding two to three more lines before the person to the right of this person continues the story, until everyone in the group has had a turn.
Students' stories can be outrageous, but they should not be absurd. Also, the story must be internally consistent. For instance, if Student 2 says that he went to the haunted house with his eight-year-old sister who was carrying a flashlight, Student 5 should not suddenly switch to going to the haunted house with her twenty-year-old brother who is carrying a camera unless one of the students in between has explained this change. This activity encourages students to listen to one another and pay attention so they can get the details right.
Quiz 1 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
Quiz 2 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
For Questions 1 - 10, assume you are working with three co-workers, Bill, Will, and Jill, to create a presentation called “How to Get to Work On Time.” The four of you have to give the presentation to the rest of your office at the end of the week. Your boss has promised all four of you a big raise if you can complete the project as a team.
Quiz 3 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
Questions 1-10 are based on the following scenario:
You are working with a group of researchers for a major technology company. You and your team members are trying to decide which of several promising-looking projects to devote your time and energy to.
Quiz 4 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
Questions 1-10 are based on the following scenario:
You are stranded on a desert island with Stacy, Tracy, and Casey, three members of your weekend sports team. The four of you need to find food, water, shelter, and heat, and you need to work together in order to survive.
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