It is always gratifying to know that good teaching strategies are timeless. What does change in education is that we sometimes put new names on things that people have been doing for a long time. The public receives them as “new” but good teaching strategies are not new at all. It’s with that in mind that we are excited that a new emphasis in the Common Core is the “Speaking & Listening” strand. We’re excited because it fits right in with a discussion strategy we call the Response Group.
See this example of the speaking and listening standards. A brief synopsis is that students need have been engaged in a broad range of discussions where they are prepped with information from text and other sources. When students are engaged in these discussions, they should be able to follow simple rules to allow for diverse opinions to be shared, and use their discussion skills to point out persuasive arguments based on evidence.
Now consider this Response Group lesson from History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond: Leading Figures of the Renaissance. In this lesson, in student groups of three, will first be assigned a leading renaissance figure, like Copernicus. The group must create an illustrated pedestal that list the person’s accomplishments using symbols or illustrations. Groups do the research first, create their illustrated pedestal, and then set it on display for other groups to see. Groups will then read a little about other figures they were not assigned, go to the illustrated pedastals, and try to figure out the identity of the illustrated figures. The small group discussion surrounding the figures is rich in content and redundantly takes the students back into their text to check their hypothesis.
In the second part of the lesson, the teacher gives the groups two critical thinking questions. 1. Which renaissance figure had the most original idea or talent? 2. Which leading figure of the Renaissance do you think has most affected modern society? With each question, groups talk internally, and then send one person to the front of the class to stand in front of one of the illustrated pedastals; creating a human-bar graph. The teacher challenges the groups to cite evidence to support their vote and students challenge one another on the merits of accomplishments.
This lesson is a remarkable activity that accomplishes the goals of teaching essential content AND challenging the students to become more effective at speaking and listening skills found in the Common Core. The Response Group strategy can be found in every TCI Program, K-12 too! It’s one of six teaching strategies that are pedagogically sound. TCI integrates to the Common Core in many other areas as well and we’ll be highlighting those in the months to come.