One search term that seems to regularly bring folks to the Teaching the Core blog is “speaking and listening rubrics for Common Core State Standards.” Up to this point, those good-hearted yet unfortunate rube-seekers haven’t found what they were looking for here.
In the words of William Wallace’s Uncle Argyle, “That is something we shall have to remedy, isn’t it?”
Not too sexy
While my speaking and listening rubrics for the CCSS aren’t going to win me a gold star in an Ed Theory class, they do effectively tell me whether my students have it, are on the way to getting it, or are showing no evidence of getting it. In other words, they may not be sexy, but they work.
For any graded debate or discussion, I give the students one skill from the Speaking and Listening standards that I want them to focus on. I deliver this to them in the form of a statement (see the image below) or question (see the list later in this post), and I post that on the board or in the day’s slideshow.
Before the debate or discussion begins, I explain the move to students, but, way more importantly, I model it for them as well, usually with a different topic from what they’re going to speak about. To help illustrate why and how they’re working on this move, I also connect the Speaking and Listening move to moves I want them to make in their writing. Speaking and Listening tasks are awesome avenues into better writing and reading.
To scaffold the moves, I often include a sentence starter or two on the board (energetic nod to Graff and Birkenstein). These enable students to frame their ideas within effective language. I always remind students that their responses need not be limited to these templates.
Finally, I explain how they will be graded: I simply start a new column on my class roster and give students a check (they got it), check minus (they attempted but aren’t quite there yet), or zero (they totally missed it or did not participate).
Rubric questions for the Speaking and Listening standards
Remember, my students are freshmen, and to make these rubric questions specific to them, I use the 9-10 grade-specific Speaking and Listening standards. Similar work can be quickly done for other grade levels.
- Do you refer to evidence from the text under discussion and/or other research pertaining to the subject? (SL.9-10.1a)
- According to ______, ________. In other words, ________
- Do you propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas? (SL.9-10.1c)
- In response to _____’s question, ______.
- _____’s comment about _____ points to the larger issue of _______.
- Do you actively incorporate others into the discussion? (SL.9-10.1c)
- ______, I’m curious what you have to say on this matter, given your previous statement about ________.
- ________ was wise to point out _________; to add to it, I would argue _______.
- Do you clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions? (SL.9-10.1c)
- ________, I heard you say ________. Am I getting that right?
- _________, is it fair to summarize your point by saying ______?
- ________ said ______, and I would challenge that conclusion with this: ________.
- Do you summarize points of agreement and/or disagreement? (SL.9-10.1d)
- _________ and _______ seem to agree on _________. However, they disagree on __________.
- Do you qualify or justify your own views and/or make new connections in light of evidence and reasoning presented by others? (SL.9-10.1d)
- As you all know, I previously said ________. However, I would like to justify what I said in light of _____’s evidence.
- Are you able to detect fallacious reasoning or exaggerated/distorted evidence? (SL.9-10.3)
- (This one is best explored and modeled with mentor texts or pre-recorded debates.)
- Do you present your ______ (point, information, finding, supporting evidence) clearly, concisely, and logically? (SL.9-10.4)
- Requiring students to use transitions is key for increasing clarity and logic.
- To help them think about clarity, concision, and logic, try showing them videos of themselves or their peers speaking.
- Are you able to show your command of formal English? (SL.9-10.6)
My goal with grading Speaking and Listening standards is to give students feedback that is immediate (I’m done grading them by the time they sit down), focused (hence giving them one skill per speaking task), and, ultimately, helpful to them. At the end of the day, my students are the ones that will live with their speaking and listening abilities — not me.
Frequently asked questions
Do you grade every speaking/listening task your students do?
- I don’t grade every debate and discussion that we have, and I don’t always require every student to participate. However, a majority of the time these tasks are graded and mandatory because I want to give students feedback and I want them to grow.
Do you require all students to participate, even if it makes them uncomfortable to do so?
- I do require every student to participate in any graded speaking/listening task. Surprisingly, even though I have had students who are literally brought to tears at the pressure of speaking in front of their peers, I always see these students grow by the midpoint in the school year, and this growth is both in their skill and in their confidence. Just this past week, I had a student tell me about how she spoke up at a community event one evening, and that she did so because of the confidence she has gained in my class. For the first two months of school, I couldn’t get this kid to speak loud enough to be heard a few feet away.
- If you come to my room, you will see students who tend to enjoy being there and tend to feel loved. Mandatory participation (even for shy kids) is possible in my room because I strive to build community from Day 1, and because my students know that I am an equal opportunity comfort zone destroyer. I also share with them about how I was super shy in high school, and how that shyness has only been harder to overcome as an adult.
What classes do you do this in?
- Even though the Speaking and Listening standard is technically only for ELA classes, my students and I probably tend to do just as much Speaking and Listening work in my World History classes as in my Freshman Comp/Lit classes. To me, social studies classes seem like they should be filled with chances to discuss and debate.
Doesn’t focusing on one skill per speaking/listening event create really boring discussions and debates?
- Not at all. Though I do grade for certain moves, I encourage students to be much more sophisticated than the skill on the board. To promote creative contributions, I often stop and praise great student moves, and there’s at least one time per event where I’m practically beside myself with glee at a brilliant contribution (granted, I sometimes need to force this display early on in the year; my goal is to show students how exciting and entertaining debates and discussions can be).
Do you have printable rubrics?
- Since I grade a single skill per speaking/listening event, I rarely print out a rubric. If anything, I sometimes use slips of scrap paper when I want to give students written feedback.
How do you allow for student choice in your speaking/listening events?
- Even though students don’t get to pick the skill they are graded on, I try to allow student choice in some way, be it when they speak, what side they speak for, or who they speak with.
What types of debate structures do you use?
- I use a variety of different debate structures, and I’ll be writing about those in a later post.
If you have more questions, let me know in the comments!