Prior to the Common Core, I nurtured a belief that not all of my students needed to talk. After all, some are shy (I was, as a secondary school student), and mandatory speaking events can bring about fits of visceral terror for the introverted.
But since then, my thinking has changed significantly.
My first cognitive shift came during a field trip to a Amway, a global corporation based in nearby Grand Rapids, MI. On our field trip, Amway employees from a diverse array of jobs conducted career round tables with our students. As I walked around and eavesdropped and, later in the day, listened to the keynote speaker from the Human Resources department, one skill repeatedly stole the show: the simple ability to communicate with people in person for a variety of purposes and in a variety of settings (essentially, SL.CCR.1).
It’s not sexy, and, like Thomas Newkirk has accurately stated, “Standardized tests are ill-suited to evaluate” it. And yet, speaking is critical for just about any job that requires you to wear pants (and probably many that don’t).
Another shift occurred when I began reading the work of Schmoker and Graff, and, starting last summer, the Common Core standards themselves. They all seemed to suggest that simply getting every student reading, writing, and talking would do much to prepare students for a diverse array of post-secondary demands. And so it came to be that I grew convinced enough to implement three simple strategies for ensuring every student spoke just about every day. I have been honing them ever since.