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Common Core Standards: ELA See All Teacher Resources

Grades 11-12

Speaking and Listening SL.11-12.6

SL.11-12.6. Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating a command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Yo, listen up! In this standard, students are expected to understand that, at times, formal language is important to the situation, task, purpose, and audience. While students will use a certain speaking style with their friends, students must learn to use academic language in the classroom especially within the context of a whole-class discussion. 

Keeping your expectations high for the use of formal language during whole-class discussions will help your students learn to better code-switch; that is, to use language appropriate to the setting and circumstances. Opportunities to develop this skill abound. Students must understand the impact that their mastery of excellent speaking skills has on academic and life-long success. This is a real eye-opener!

Here’s an example that will help them see this:



Having just read Their Eyes Were Watching God, you are going to take part in a class discussion. The teacher has put six questions on the overhead, all of which are related to the themes of the story. Here’s how the discussion works:

The teacher reveals the first question. You’ll work with your elbow partner to confer about possible claims, or answers. You notice that the question could be answered with at least three claims. Those English teachers -- their questions are NEVER simple! In addition to the claim, you must also provide some textual evidence followed by analysis of that evidence. What does it all mean?

After four minutes, the question is opened up to the entire class. The teacher asks for one student to offer a claim that answers the question. Then, that student may call on another student, who will give evidence from the text to support the claim. Finally, the second student calls on a third student, who then analyzes the evidence given for the first claim. The cycle begins again when a new claim is presented. Claim, evidence, analysis. Claim, evidence, analysis. You get the picture. This continues until all claims answering that first question have been presented.

Moving on to question number two, then three, then….. You know that at this rate, the discussion will take two days, but, by golly, you’ll know your stuff for the test!

In addition to following this process, you understand that this is a formal discussion. The Pair/Share portion with your elbow partner might be informal, and as such offers you a chance to collect your thoughts. You might use informal, or conversational, language in that one-on-one situation. That’s appropriate. In the whole class discussion, however, formal language is expected and conventions of discussions must be followed. These rules include applying Standard English, using an academic tone, and choosing mature and formal words. Avoid slang. We know that when you’re talking with your friends, you use one type of language. We’re NOT going there. But in the classroom, academic language is the way to go!

Proper discussion etiquette is also required: Address and thank the speaker for calling on you. Listen actively. No side conversations. Electronics are put away. Summarize what you believe you’ve heard from the previous speaker before answering your portion of the question. Offer an alternative viewpoint in a respectful manner.

It might seem rather forced at first, but soon you’ll see that this discussion is interesting and mature. And, you’ve learned a great deal about the novel that you didn’t realize by yourself.


Create a graphic organizer that explains when formal and informal English language might be used.

SituationTaskLanguage Type
SituationTaskLanguage Type
1. Third grade language arts classTell a story and explain what it meansInformal but with simple vocabulary
2. A speech before a group of physiciansExplain the results of a new studyFormal with specific vocabulary
3.Tutoring a peerExplain the main ideas in a newspaper articleInformal with grade appropriate vocabulary
4. A classroom of hungry peersDemonstrate how to make pancakesInformal with simple vocabulary
5.Debate competitionArguing why the death penalty should not be permittedFormal language with mature vocabulary

Aligned Resources

More standards from Grades 11-12 - Speaking and Listening