Including Speech & Language Standards in Daily Instruction

With everything upper elementary teachers need to think about and cover, it can be really easy to let some things slide.  The speech and language standards tend to be one of those things.  These skills are important because they lead to more complex discourse in upper grades and college, and are an essential part of being an active citizen and participant in society.  The speech and language standards can also be a vehicle for teaching, practicing, and reviewing other content, so they are one of those ‘kill two birds with one lesson’ set of standards.

Here are some super simple ways to make sure your students develop appropriate speech and language skills in the general education classroom (without losing your mind):

1. Use a focus of the day or week. 
Choose an overarching focus of the month (or week) and then a specific focus for each week (or day).  This doesn’t require any extra class time, but helps focus students’ attention on a skill, so it’s more likely to be practiced.  You could also start by doing one overarching idea per month, and then once you cover them all more slowly, start cycling through by week to create a spiraled review.

Common Core-aligned examples:

overarching idea: participate in discussions
specific skills:
build on others’ ideas
clearly express your own ideas
            provide requested detail or clarification when asked
speak in complete sentences
            speak clearly
            speak at an understandable pace
differentiate between formal and informal situations (grade 4)
adapt speech to context (grade 5)

overarching idea: follow agreed upon discussion rules
specific skills:
stick to the topic
use active listening
take turns speaking
gain the floor in respectful ways
make sure everyone contributes
carry out roles (grades 4 & 5)

overarching idea: ask questions
specific skills:
ask questions to stay on topic
ask questions to check information
ask questions to clarify information
ask questions related to the comments of others
ask follow up questions (grade 4)

overarching idea: come to discussions prepared
specific skills:
read to prepare
use what you read to participate
study to prepare
use what you studied to participate

overarching idea: reflecting on conversations
            explain your own ideas in light of the discussion
review the key ideas expressed (grades 4 &5)
draw concludsions in light of knowledge gained from discussions (grade 5)

2. Use an activity-specific focus:
When it’s time for read aloud, or when information is being given visually, quantitatively, or orally, knowing the focus skill(s) for your grade level can make things less overwhelming.  These skills are already covered in other ELA standards, so we don’t have to add any additional content.

for read alouds and content delivery:
grade 3: determine the main idea and details
grade 4: paraphrase
grade 5: summarize

from speakers:
grade  3: ask & answer questions, elaborate & give detail
grade 4: identify reasons & evidence
grade 5: summarize, identify reasons & evidence

3. Make sure to include diverse groups regularly in the classroom:
-one-to-one/ teacher-led/ student groups
-diverse partners
-diverse topics & texts

4. Plan for these one-time mini-projects, as part of other ELA or content instruction:
A: give a report on a topic or text or tell a story (grade 3 & 4) or present an opinion (grade 5):
            give appropriate facts
            give relevant, descriptive details (that support main ideas/themes)
            in an organized way (grade 4)
            sequence ideas logically (grade 5)
            speak clearly
speak at an understandable pace

B: create an audio recording of a story or poem:
            use fluid reading
            use an understandable pace
            add visual displays
            grade 5: add multimedia components (graphics, sound, etc.)

If we just take some time at the start of the school year (or whenever we’re ready to tackle these) and plan it all out, then it’s easy to implement with very little extra work.  It’s mostly just a matter of adding a secondary focus to already existing lesson plans or projects and giving students a specific skills to practice during read alouds and conversations.

Happy (speech & language) Teaching!!
Christine Cadalzo