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Common Core Standards: ELA See All Teacher Resources



Grades 9-10

Speaking and Listening SL.9-10.1

Comprehension and Collaboration

SL.9-10.1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
  • Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.
  • Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
  • Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.

This standard lets students skip the work of proving they know a particular subject in favor of letting them focus on how they communicate in small groups. In grades 9-10, the big issues for group communication include:

  • Be prepared: look into the topic under discussion, do any assigned reading or other work, and refer to those materials when expressing opinions or bringing up questions or issues.
  • Set up rules for in-group communication (who gets to speak when, etc.), and plan to figure out who is responsible for which parts of the project and how the group will communicate when working together.
  • Keep a conversation going: ask and answer questions, draw others into the discussion if they’re hesitating, and summarize and clarify the main ideas talked about.
  • Think about and respond to other people’s ideas and opinions, summarize where group members agree and when they disagree.
  • When appropriate, qualify or justify one’s own stance on an issue and connect one’s position to the other ideas in the group.

Stated plainly, these goals sound bafflingly hollow; and without a topic for the group to talk about or work on, they are. The following activities and questions should help students clear up some of the confusion.

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard

Example 1

Sample Activities for Use in Class

1. Debate Team(s)

Make a set of five to eight (more if your group is particularly large) slips or index cards, each of which contains a topic that ninth and tenth graders might be interested in. State each as a declarative opinion; for instance, “All motorcyclists should be required to wear helmets” or, “The book version of any story is always better than the movie version.” Choose or have students choose a topic, and then split the class in half. One half will be “for” the proposition, the other “against.”

Give the “for” and “against” groups 15-20 minutes to discuss their respective positions, keeping in mind some basic ground rules of groups: everyone must have a chance to speak, raise your hand when you want to speak, etc. You may prepare these rules ahead of time or have the class set them up and agree on them, if time permits. When the 15-20 minutes have passed, have students reconvene, then split them into groups of four, with two “for” students and two “against” students in each group. Then, give these groups 15-20 minutes to talk, again having them follow certain ground rules. Group members may also take notes on who’s speaking, how, and so on.

At the end of the allotted time, have the class come together as a whole to discuss what happened in each group. Who hogged the floor? Who was shy? Did members wait their turn to speak, and how did they indicate they wanted to speak when the current speaker was finished - or did they just interrupt themselves? Did they stick to the “ground rules,” and if not, why not?

Example 2

2. Ground Rules for Groups of All Sizes

This activity can be done separately from the above activity, before it, or alongside it. You will need a chalkboard or some other medium of display that you can write on for the entire class to see.

Have students offer “ground rules” for group communications in general, and write them on the board. Some common examples include: “raise your hand to speak,” “don’t interrupt,” “don’t use personal insults or attacks,” “do the reading before coming to class.” In a blank space near this “master list,” make a list of the different types of groups students are most likely to find themselves working in: one on one interaction, small groups without a leader, and larger groups with a teacher or manager in charge.

Then, ask students when they might change the “ground rules” for each type of group. For instance, a one-on-one collaboration might not require students to raise their hands. Discuss what types of rules might be used to replace any discarded “ground rules” and why. How does knowing what the “ground rules” are help people communicate? When is it appropriate to ask for creation or clarification of these “ground rules”? What sort of behavior is simply not appropriate in any kind of group?

Quiz 1 Questions

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

  1. Which of the following “ground rules” for group communications is LEAST likely to help a large group understand and achieve its goals?

    Correct Answer:

    If you want to speak, yell over whoever else is speaking.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (E).

    This will just make things loud and chaotic and will accomplish nothing.

  2. Suppose you’re working in a small group, and one group member hasn’t said a word all day. You know he understands the project you’re working on and he usually has good ideas, but he is very shy. Which of the following will help your shy colleague contribute to the group?

    Correct Answer:

    Any of the above would help the shy person contribute.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (E).

  3. You are working with five other students to set up a school store. You want to sell candy in the store, but one of your fellow group members disagrees, saying that selling candy will only lead to more cavities in the student population. Which of the following is the MOST productive way to respond to your colleague’s disagreement?

    Correct Answer:

    Ask your colleague what he thinks should be sold instead of candy.

  4. You’re part of a reading group that has to prepare a scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to perform in front of your English class. Your first meeting is in two days. Which of the following is the BEST thing to do before now and then to ensure the meeting goes smoothly?

    Correct Answer:

    Read Romeo and Juliet and take notes of which scenes you think the group should do and why.

  5. At the reading group meeting for Romeo and Juliet, you announce that you want to perform the fight scene between Mercutio and Tybalt. Since you’ve read the play, the BEST way to convince the rest of the group to go along with your plan is:

    Correct Answer:

    Describe the details of the scene and compare each character to a group member to show that the group has the right people to do the scene.

  6. The first meeting of your Romeo and Juliet reading group went well, but there’s a lot to remember. The BEST way to help everyone in the group remember what needs to be done is to:

    Correct Answer:

    Summarize each person’s roles and make notes so that you can check if someone forgets what they were supposed to be doing.

  7. In your math class, you and the rest of the students spent the first day of class setting up “ground rules” for discussion. One of the rules is to wait until someone else has finished speaking before speaking - in other words, “don’t interrupt.” Which of the following scenarios is the BEST time to break this rule?

    Correct Answer:

    You notice the person sitting next to you is having a seizure.

    Answer Explanation:

    The answer is (D).

    Emergencies are an appropriate time to break rules that exist only for common courtesy; the health of a person in the group trumps politeness during discussions.

  8. You’re discussing a short story in a small group. One of your classmates says that he believes the main character was being a selfish jerk by leaving his family and going into hiding. You disagree: you think that running away was the only way for the main character to keep his family safe since he is being hunted down by gang members. The LEAST effective way for you to bring up your disagreement is:

    Correct Answer:

    Tell your classmate he’s stupid.

  9. When someone in the group breaks one of the agreed-upon ground rules, the BEST way to respond is:

    Correct Answer:

    Remind them politely of the rule.

  10. Which of the following is a good reason to summarize what the group has talked about at the end of the meeting?

    Correct Answer:

    It reminds everyone of the important points and makes sure they’re all on the same page.

Quiz 2 Questions

Here'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 in a small group in your English class, along with your classmates Carrie, Harry, and Terry, discussing Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

  1. Which of the following activities is LEAST likely to help you be prepared for your group?

    Correct Answer:

    Sleeping with your copy of To Kill a Mockingbird under your pillow

  2. For your group meeting, your teacher has given you a list of “ground rules” for groups that your group can decide whether or not to use. Which of the following rules on the list will be LEAST helpful for your four-person group?

    Correct Answer:

    Stand up and speak loudly so everyone can see/hear you.

    Answer Explanation:

    The answer is (D).

    Standing up is probably not necessary when there are only four people.

  3. One of the “ground rules” your group decides to keep is the rule about explaining why you disagree with someone’s ideas instead of insulting or attacking that person. Your classmate Harry, however, repeatedly starts his arguments with, “You’re an idiot if you think that.” Which of the following actions is the MOST appropriate way to deal with Harry’s breaking of the “no insults” rule?

    Correct Answer:

    Remind Harry firmly to stop insulting people and that, if he does it again, you’ll ask him to leave the group and/or inform the teacher that he’s not following the rules.

  4. During the discussion, you share your opinion that the narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird is forced to grow up too quickly. Which of the following actions would be MOST helpful for you to use in supporting your position?

    Correct Answer:

    Refer to specific chapters in the book in which the narrator, a child, makes a grown-up observation about the racism in her hometown.

  5. During the discussion, Carrie begins to explain how she identified with the narrator’s older brother because she also has younger siblings and has a mother who died when she was young. The BEST reason to break the group’s “no interrupting” rule during Carrie’s talk is:

    Correct Answer:

    You see that a fire has started in the classroom next door.

  6. Terry begins explaining how something the narrator’s brother did in the story fits into the theme of racism in the novel. You’re pretty sure Terry is actually describing the narrator’s best friend, not her brother. Asking Terry which one he means is an example of:

    Correct Answer:


  7. Since he stopped insulting people, Harry hasn’t said a word about the novel. The best way to ensure he adds to the discussion is to:

    Correct Answer:

    Ask him to share his thoughts with the group.

  8. At one point in the discussion, everyone seems to be out of things to say. Which of the following is the LEAST helpful way to keep the discussion going?

    Correct Answer:

    Wait for someone else to say something.

  9. Part of your group assignment is to choose one chapter of the novel and summarize it for the rest of the class. You want to summarize the chapter in which the narrator’s best friend describes how he ran away from home and joined the circus. The BEST way to convince the rest of your group to agree with you is:

    Correct Answer:

    Explain why you think it’s the best chapter for the group to summarize.

  10. For the class summary, your group must choose someone to write the summary, and then must divide the reading of the summary between the other three. Your group does this easily, and just before leaving, you sum up in one sentence what everyone’s job is and when it is due. This summary at the end of your meeting is helpful because:

    Correct Answer:

    All of the above.

Aligned Resources

More standards from Grades 9-10 - Speaking and Listening