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Common Core Standards: ELA

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening

Speaking and Listening CCRA.SL.6

6. Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Imagine this scene: A ninety-year-old woman shoots a burgler and is charged with murder in the first degree. This incident is picked up and publicized by the media, and the courtroom is packed during the trial. The television cameras are recording, the accused woman is weeping silently into a floral handkerchief, the lawyers are somber and nervous, and the other people in the courtroom are sitting with bated breath, waiting for the trial to begin. Then the judge sweeps in, saying, “All right, let’s get this party started!”

Wrong. So wrong.

In order to avoid faux pas like this, your students will have to learn early on that there is a time for laughter and jokes, and a time for seriousness and formality. Here are some exercises that you can use in your classroom to emphasize this:

1. Make two sets of notecards. On one set, list several short, common topics of conversation, like: “Ask how someone is feeling,” “Say that it’s raining outside,” and “Wish someone a happy birthday.” On the second set, list a number of people the students might talk with in their everyday lives, such as: “A teacher,” “Your mom,” “A group of small children,” “Your best friend.”

Shuffle the decks separately and have each student pick one card from each pile. Then, have the students say what they would say on that topic and to that person. For instance, if a student pulls the cards “Wish someone a happy anniversary” and “Your best friend,” the student might say, “Happy anniversary, you two! Hey, that’s awesome!” If the student chose “Your boss,” on the other hand, he or she might say, “Happy anniversary. I hope it’s great.”

The class can then discuss whether the student’s response was appropriate and the types of responses that would be appropriate or inappropriate in that situation. The students can also make their own cards in small groups or as a class.

2. Have students form pairs or small groups. In each group, give students the following list. Have students practice greeting one another, giving a gift, and saying goodbye the way they would in each of these situations. Then, bring the class back together and discuss how their use of words, structure, language, and gesture changed in each situation.

How Would You Speak If You:

  • Were at a job interview?
  • Had just arrived at your family’s holiday dinner?
  • Were at the movie theater on a first date with your crush?
  • Were at the movie theater with your best friend?
  • Were talking to a small child you are babysitting?
  • Were sitting on a bus next to someone you know, but don’t really like?

Quiz 1 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

  1. You’re looking for a new job, which means sending out resumes and cover letters. Which of the following statements should you NOT put in your cover letter?

    Correct Answer:

    A cute ending: “D00d, hire me! Kthx bai. LOL.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (e) - Cuteness rarely has a place in a cover letter, and text-speak should NEVER appear in one.


  2. Ms. Smith, the manager of Superior Widgets, wants to interview you on Monday at 3:30. What is the BEST way to accept the interview?

    Correct Answer:

    “I’ll see you on Monday at 3:30. Thank you.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - Polite, with the added bonus of confirming the day and time so there are no misunderstandings.


  3. When the interview begins, Ms. Smith asks why you want to be chief widget inspector. You have wanted to be a widget inspector ever since you were nine years old and you saw the Oscar-winning film Widget Inspectors Have More Fun. What’s the BEST way to explain this to Ms. Smith?

    Correct Answer:

    “I saw Widget Inspectors Have More Fun when I was nine, and it inspired me to become a widget inspector.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - Clear and polite.


  4. Ms. Smith wants to know how you, as Chief Widget Inspector, would inspire the other widget inspectors to work more quickly. What is the MOST appropriate way to talk to the inspectors?

    Correct Answer:

    “We’re falling behind all the other teams. If we don’t catch up, we’ll be doing mandatory overtime while everyone else is at home celebrating the holidays with their families.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - Sets a goal with measurable consequences for failing to meet it, which is part of what a team needs from its manager. Also, it addresses the problem without insulting the people.


  5. Ms. Smith would like to schedule a second interview so that you can meet with the Vice President of Widget Inspection. She needs to know the best time to contact you to schedule the second interview. How should you definitely NOT answer this question?

    Correct Answer:

    “No biggie. My peeps will totes call your peeps.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - Far too much slang, and doesn’t answer her question - she wants to know when to call you, not wait for you to call her.


  6. After the interview, you catch up with your friends Stan, Fran, and Dan at your favorite restaurant. Dan manages to embarrass everyone by talking to the waiter in an entirely inappropriate way. Which of the following things did Dan MOST likely say?

    Correct Answer:

    “How about you read my mind, ugly?”

    Answer Explanation:

    • (c) - Obnoxious, but not as offensive as (d).
    • (d) - correct answer

  7. Stan, Fran, and you are shocked by Dan’s rudeness to the waiter. You want to tell him that what he said was not okay. Which comment is the LEAST likely to get your point across?

    Correct Answer:

    Say nothing and stare into your water glass.

    Answer Explanation:

    (e) - Dan is least likely to know that you disapprove of his behavior if you say nothing at all than if you say any of the four things above.


  8. Fran wants to know how your interview went, so you give her the play-by-play. Which of the following things is LEAST likely to be something you would do in your interview?

    Correct Answer:

    Describe how drunk you got last night and how it’s amazing you showed up on time for the interview.

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - This information might be appropriate for friends, but not for an interview.


  9. Fran hopes that you remembered to tell the interviewer that you were named Most Likely to Succeed at Widget Inspection in your school yearbook. Which is the MOST likely way you told her that you did remember to say this?

    Correct Answer:

    “Oh, yeah, I told her all about that. It was awesome of y’all to vote for me, by the way.”

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Too formal for a chat with a friend, even if you’re being sarcastic.
    • (c) - correct answer
    • (e) - There’s no reason for this.

  10. Dan starts to tell a story about how drunk he got last night and how it’s amazing he showed up for lunch today. Suddenly, your friend Stan notices two small children in the booth behind Dan who are listening to him. Stan is MOST likely to tell Dan to tone down which part of his story because of the kids?

    Correct Answer:

    Dan’s habit of putting swear words into each sentence.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - These are least appropriate for kids.


Quiz 2 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

Questions 1-12 assume that you have just joined a traveling theater company.

  1. Your theater company has just been booked to give a performance at the city’s oldest and most respected theater. Your audience will consist mostly of older, wealthy adults. Which of the following plays would be MOST appropriate for them?

    Correct Answer:

    Romeo and Juliet

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - This is the one! An older, more traditional audience is likely to prefer an older, more traditional play.


  2. Your fellow actors think all your suggestions are horrible. They decide you’re going to perform Shakespeare’s Macbeth instead. Which is the MOST effective way to tell your fellow actors you want to play Lady Macbeth?

    Correct Answer:

    “Does anyone mind if I read for Lady Macbeth?”

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - Gives your fellow actors a chance to comment while making your intentions clear.


  3. During your first rehearsal in the theatre, the actor playing Macbeth and the director get into an argument about how loud the actors should speak. Which is the BEST way to support the actor’s point that all the actors need to speak louder?

    Correct Answer:

    Say, “I agree we need to speak up. The audience is full of older people who can’t hear very well.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - Expresses your point clearly, and without drama. Get it? Drama!


  4. Everybody has to turn in a short biography of themselves that will be put in the program. Which of the following details should you NOT reveal about yourself to the audience?

    Correct Answer:

    You are best friends with a woman who has HIV.

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - This is seriously violating her privacy and it’s irrelevant to the play.


  5. During the opening night performance, you forget your lines just as Macbeth tells you he has killed the king. You remember, however, that Lady Macbeth is supposed to be angry at her husband for forgetting to frame the guards. Which of the following statements is MOST likely to cover up the fact that you can’t actually remember your lines?

    Correct Answer:

    “Wherefore art thou still carrying the dagger, thou pox-ridden numbskull? Leave it upon the laps of yonder guards!”

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - More or less Elizabethan and captures Lady Macbeth’s anger at that moment.


  6. The community is so impressed by your company’s performance of Macbeth that they want you to do a play for the town’s kindergarten classes. Your company wants to team up with the local orchestra to perform Peter and the Wolf. Which is the MOST effective way to start your pitch to the orchestra director?

    Correct Answer:

    I represent a local theatre company, and we’re interested in putting on Peter and the Wolf for the local school. We need an orchestra, naturally, to perform the music.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (e) - Clear, professional, and appropriate for your audience and purpose.


  7. The orchestra director doesn’t call you back for a week. When she finally calls, she apologizes for the wait, saying that her mother is in the hospital after a bad car accident. Which is the MOST appropriate response?

    Correct Answer:

    “I’m so sorry. Is this a good time to talk?”

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - Polite, and shows that you’re a good human being.


  8. Two days before Peter and the Wolf is ready to open, the elementary school principal calls you. The kindergarteners have a field trip that day, so he wants to know if you can perform for the fifth graders instead. Which is the MOST effective way to change the performance so it’s appropriate for older kids?

    Correct Answer:

    Give the kids written instructions for a dance they can do at a certain time in the play.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - Older kids can read and follow more complicated directions than younger ones.


  9. The principal also wants you to talk about your career as an actor to the fifth graders. Which is the MOST appropriate way to start your talk?

    Correct Answer:

    “Who wants to be an actor when they grow up? Here’s the story of how I became an actor.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - Relates it to the kids and introduces the topic of the speech in a way they can understand and are possibly interested in.


  10. After the performance, the father of one of the kids approaches you. He wants to know how to prevent his daughter from becoming an actor and talk her into going to law school instead. Which is the LEAST appropriate thing to say to him?

    Correct Answer:

    “Why would you treat a kid like that, you soulless monster?”

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - You may be thinking it, but it’s rude to say, especially to someone you’ve only just met.


  11. As you’re talking to the father, his daughter appears. She wants to know how to become an actor, even though she knows her father doesn’t approve. Which is the LEAST appropriate thing to say to her?

    Correct Answer:

    “Change your name and run away from home. Don’t get back until your dad apologizes for wanting you to become a lawyer. You’ll show him.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - Advocating criminal behavior for kids is probably not a good idea.


  12. The director of your theatre group just had a crazy idea. He wants to rewrite Peter and the Wolf as if every character is best friends with every other character. Which part of Peter’s dialogue is MOST likely to change in the rewrite?

    Correct Answer:

    The part where he talks to his stern grandfather.

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - You’re changing a parent-child relationship to a friend-friend relationship, so the dialogue will probably get more casual.


Aligned Resources

More standards from College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening - Speaking and Listening

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