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A report on students writing speech and participation in the classroom

Table of Contents Chapter 1. Why Talk Is Important in Classrooms Aldous Huxley 1958 once wrote, "Language has made possible man's progress from animality to civilization" p.

In doing so, he effectively summarized the importance of language in humans' lives. It is through language that we are civilized. One could argue that nothing is more important to the human species than that.

But Huxley wasn't done there; he continued by explaining the value of language: Language permits its users to pay attention to things, persons and events, even when the things and persons are absent and the events are not taking place. Language gives definition to our memories and, by translating experiences into symbols, converts the immediacy of craving or abhorrence, or hatred or love, into fixed principles of feeling and conduct.

It's how we process information and remember. It's our operating system.

10 Benefits of Getting Students to Participate in Classroom Discussions

Vygotsky 1962 suggested that thinking develops into words in a number of phases, moving from imaging to inner speech to inner speaking to speech. Tracing this idea backward, speech—talk—is the representation of thinking. As such, it seems reasonable to suggest that classrooms should be filled with talk, given that we want them filled with thinking!

Teachers have long understood the importance of using language to transmit ideas. In the early history of education, teachers talked for most of the instructional day while students were quiet and completed their assigned tasks.

Students were expected to memorize facts and be able to recite them. Remember that in most classrooms of the late 1800s, the age range was very diverse.

In the same classroom, teachers might have students who were 5 or 6 years old and others who were 15 to 18. Talking by students was not the norm. In fact, students were punished for talking in class, even if the talk was academic!

Chapter 1. Why Talk Is Important in Classrooms

Over time, educators realized that students had to use the language if they were to become better educated. As a result, well-intentioned educators called on individual students to respond to questions.

Teachers expected them to use academic language in their individual responses, and as students spoke, teachers would assess their knowledge. Consider the following exchange from a 3rd grade class. As you read it, think about how much academic language was used: I was thinking about the life cycle of an insect.

Do you remember the life cycle we studied? What was the first stage in the life cycle? Yes, things are born, but think about the life cycle of insects. Let's try to be more specific in our thinking. What is the first stage in the insect life cycle? Yes, insects start as eggs. Then they change and develop. They become larva after eggs, right? What happens to them after they are larva? They do eventually become adults, but there is a step missing. What is the step between larva and adults?

What is that stage of the life cycle called? Yes, there are two kinds of larva in the life cycle of some insects. But what I was thinking about was what happened to them after the larva before they become adults. Now we're talking about the three-stage cycle for some insects. Do the insects that change into nymphs come from larva? Let's look at our two posters again. There is a three-stage process and a four-stage process. Let's study these again.

Let's spend a few minutes analyzing this classroom exchange. First, it's not unlike many of the whole-class interactions we've seen, especially in a classroom where the students are obviously having a difficult time with the content. One student at a time is talking while the others listen or ignore the class. Second, the teacher is clearly using a lot of academic language, which is great.

We know that teachers themselves have to use academic discourse if their students are ever going to have a chance to learn. Third, the balance of talk in this classroom is heavily weighted toward the teacher. If we count the number of words used, minus the student names, the teacher used 190 words, whereas the students used 11.

A Brief History of Classroom Talk

This means that 94 percent of the words used in the classroom during this five-minute segment were spoken by the teacher. In addition, if we analyze the types of words used, half of the words spoken by the students were not academic in nature. That's not so great. Students need more time to talk, and this structure of asking them to do so one at a time will not significantly change the balance of talk in the classroom.

As you reflect on this excerpt from the classroom, consider whether you think that the students will ever become proficient in using the language. Our experience suggests that these students will fail to develop academic language and discourse simply because they aren't provided opportunities to use words.

They are hearing words but are not using them. We are reminded of Bakhtin's 1981 realization: It becomes 'one's own' only when the speaker populates it with his own intention, his own accent, when he appropriates the word, adapting it to his own semantic and expressive intention" pp. In other words, if students aren't using the words, they aren't developing academic discourse. As a result, we often think we've done a remarkable job teaching students and then wonder why they aren't learning.

The key is for students to talk with one another, in purposeful ways, using academic language. Let's explore the importance of talk as the foundation for literacy next. Building the Foundation for Literacy Wilkinson 1965 introduced the term oracy as a way for people to think about the role that oral language plays in literacy development, defining it as "the ability to express oneself coherently and to communicate freely with others by word of mouth.

Put simply, talk, or oracy, is the foundation of literacy. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. We have all observed that young children listen and speak well before they can read or write. Children learn to manipulate their environment with spoken words well before they learn to do so with written words. It seems that this pattern is developmental in nature and that our brains are wired for language. Young children learn that language is power and that they can use words to express their needs, wants, and desires.

The problem with applying this developmental approach to English language learners and language learning in the classroom is that our students don't have years to learn to speak before they need to write. Historically, teachers did not introduce English language learners to print until they had developed their speaking skills—a misguided approach that does not take into account the fact that, in developing their primary language, English language learners have already learned much about language, including the role that it plays in interacting with others.

At the other end of the spectrum of instructional practice, many teachers did not provide any oral language instruction because they believed that their students needed to develop reading proficiency and make adequate yearly progress as soon as possible. Clearly, students must reach high levels of proficiency in reading and writing in order to be successful in school, at a university, and in virtually any career they may choose.

We know that it a report on students writing speech and participation in the classroom time to reach those levels. We know that opportunities for students to talk in class also take time.

  1. The second was the speech therapist's evaluation, which presents, based on the notes taken during the meetings, their own interpretation of the process.
  2. Why Talk Is Important in Classrooms Aldous Huxley 1958 once wrote, "Language has made possible man's progress from animality to civilization" p. It is necessary to enhance the use of creativity and let students to act in their text as writers addressing some possible reader 25.
  3. With regard to increasing vocabulary size and variety, the number of different lexical words used by each grade's student was summed up and divided by their number. It is necessary to enhance the use of creativity and let students to act in their text as writers addressing some possible reader 25.
  4. Teachers have long understood the importance of using language to transmit ideas.

So, given the little instructional time we have with them, how can we justify devoting a significant amount of that time to talk? We would argue, How can we not provide that time to talk? Telling students what you want them to know is certainly a faster way of addressing standards.

But telling does not necessarily equate to learning. If indeed "reading and writing float on a sea of talk," then the time students spend engaged in academic conversations with their classmates is time well spent in developing not only oracy but precisely the high level of literacy that is our goal. In Chapter 3 we will explore how we can maximize use of instructional time to that end. Talk in the Average Classroom A report on students writing speech and participation in the classroom talk is frequently limited and is used to check comprehension rather than develop thinking.

Consistent with the example from the beginning of the chapter, researchers have found that teachers dominate classroom talk. For example, Lingard, Hayes, and Mills 2003 noted that in classrooms with higher numbers of students living in poverty, teachers talk more and students talk less. We also know that English language learners in many classrooms are asked easier questions or no questions at all and thus rarely have to talk in the classroom Guan Eng Ho, 2005. Several decades ago, Flanders 1970 reported that teachers of high-achieving students spent about 55 percent of the class time talking, compared with 80 percent for teachers of low-achieving students.

In addition to the sheer volume of teacher talk in the classroom, researchers have identified the types of talk that are more and less helpful. Questioning is an important tool that teachers have, but students also need opportunities for dialogue if they are to learn.

And, unfortunately, most questioning uses an initiate—respond—evaluate cycle Cazden, 1988 in which teachers initiate a question, a student responds, and then the teacher evaluates the answer. Here is an example from a 7th grade social studies discussion of a reading on ancient Mesopotamia: What did the Sumerians use to control the Twin Rivers?

First, in a classroom where we want students to talk—to practice and apply their developing knowledge of English—only one student has an opportunity to talk, and, as we see in this example, that talk does not require the use of even one complete sentence, let alone extended discourse. In a classroom where we want students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate, neither does this type of interchange require them to engage in critical thinking.

Instead, they may become frustrated as they struggle to "guess what's in the teacher's head" or become disengaged as they listen to the "popcorn" pattern of teacher question, student response, teacher question, student response, and so on.

Last, in a classroom where assessment guides instruction, with each question the teacher learns that one student knows the answer but can make no determination regarding the understanding of the other 29 students in the classroom. In sum, talk is used in most classrooms but could be more effectively used to develop students' thinking.