Common Core Lesson Plan of the Day: Speaking and Listening

I was feeling pretty good about life. My “Cask of Amontillado” common core lesson plans went great. It went so well that several students apologized for having insulted me the week before, fearful that I would bury them behind a wall of school cafeteria lasagna and leave them to die.

Then my administrator, Ms. Fireyou, announced she would be observing me to specifically see how I was evaluating the Speaking and Listening Common Core Standards. I panicked, tripped, slammed my head on a pile of school cafeteria lasagna I had planned on using to wall up disobedient children, and was visited in a dream by Jack Canfield, who gave me a bowl of Chicken Soup and this great lesson plan and rubric for classroom discussions.

Check out the rubric before you get started.

Speaking and Listening Rubric

Here’s how to apply the standards.

  1. Give students an assignment that requires them to take notes, annotate (this lesson on annotating a poem can be adapted to just about anything), or answer questions. Annotation works best for discussion assignments because students are more likely to be thorough when annotating as opposed to taking notes. If you do assign notes, I recommend Cornell Notes. Answering questions is often too limiting, but if the questions are thought-provoking, they can work.
  2. Students should take out their completed assignment and the class discussion rubric at the start of class.
  3. Go over classroom discussion rules. You can even have them make their own.
  4. Discuss. If students are well prepared, your only job is to guide them.

Here are suggestions for assigning a grade.

DroptheMicThe procedural part is fairly straightforward. It’s the evaluation part that can get complicated. I’ve experimented over the years and found that the following evaluation procedures make it easier for everyone (including me) to succeed.

  1. When you give the class discussion preparation assignment, be sure to emphasize that preparation makes up the bulk of the grade. In reality, it’s practically all the grade since without the preparation the discussion itself won’t be very good.
  2. At the start of class, instruct students to have the assignment on their desk and to take a few minutes to organize their thoughts. What you’re really doing is giving them something constructive to do, so you can go around the room with a seating chart and check to see if they’re prepared for the discussion. Those who are fully prepared receive a star. Those who are not receive either a 3/4, 1/2, or a zero depending on the preparation. Because most of my assignments involve annotation and my instructions include “annotate the heck out of this reading selection,” it’s pretty easy to check.
  3. Once the discussion begins, just make ‘+’ marks on the seating chart for good comments and ‘-‘ marks for obvious signs of stupidity or lack of preparation. Take the preparation grade as a basis and go from there. For example, if  a student merits a 3/4 on his preparation assignment and makes a couple of good points during the discussion, his grade will improve (but no more than a 90%). If a student has thoroughly completed the preparation assignment but makes no comments or shows little understanding, his grade can be knocked down, but never below an 85%. (These are just examples of how I grade. You can come up with your own system. Just be sure to use the rubric to justify your marks. The preparation portion is obviously the key.)

Because it’s the discussion rubric is based on ELA Common Core Standards, the grade can be taken as a summative or formative assignment.

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