ELA Teachers: How Many Strands Are You Teaching?

For English Language Arts educators, the common core comprises of four main strands: reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. Over the last year or so, since the implementation of the standards, I’ve overheard many teachers argue that the speaking and listening strand is not important or as important as the other strands.

Many language teachers are avid readers and passionate writers. The thought of lounging on a cushy, warm sofa, drinking tea by the fire, with their favorite book in hand offers comfort to their souls. Or sitting outside on their favorite lounge chair, notebook in hand, scribbling verses of poetry as the sun rises, all while sipping a hot cup of coffee, sounds serendipitous. On the other hand, many language teachers don’t yearn to stand in front of an audience, palms sweaty, voices quivering, mouths drying to deliver a speech. As a result, many ELA are not passionate about this particular strand within the Common Core.

Many elements of language comprise of solitary tasks. Reading is an introverted task in many ways. As readers, we quietly hold our books, with our heads buried in them. We look up on occasion to share our discoveries, with little thought on our presentation of those ideas. Furthermore, as writers, we may do the same, we write by ourselves and then share our discoveries via Blogger or some other form of social media, never having to face a real audience of our peers. Therefore, many ELA teachers believe sharing and open classroom discussion is evidence enough of mastery in the speaking and listening strand.

However, I believe that many ELA teachers need to change that mindset, if we are going to prepare our students for college and career. ELA teachers have a special opportunity to use this strand to create leaders for tomorrow. The following TED Talk illustrates the point of body language and how our own body language changes how we view ourselves, and how others view us.

This is the type of knowledge that should be taught within the speaking and listening strand.
http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html

I feel lucky in a sense, that my undergraduate (Speech Communications) and graduate degree (English/Reading) hit on all elements of language. I’ve been trained to understand the importance of each strand. I’ve also witnessed first hand how important presentation is in all aspects of business. Students today must master all four to succeed in tomorrow’s workforce.

For all ELA teachers, who passionately read and write, but have not been trained in public speaking, I would urge you to take a course, put yourself out there, and master the skills that must be taught in the classroom today.

As ELA educators, we are all more passionate about certain strands than others, but we must understand that each strand is of equal importance if we want students who truly are college and career ready.

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