This blog series will focus on intervention strategies you might try with students as they adjust to the academic expectations of the new school year, readjust to in-person instruction, and/or continue to receive instruction remotely. Each blog in the series will focus on one of the following domains of ELA instruction:

  • Listening and Speaking
  • Phonics and Fluency
  • Comprehension and Analysis
  • Spelling and Writing Composition

With so much focus on providing interventions to build students’ reading and writing skills, it’s easy to forget that listening and speaking skills are equally important—and required by ELA standards. Last year, expectations around listening and speaking gained attention as many students transitioned to remote learning. The new school year is an ideal time to provide interventions for these domains. Consider these ideas for helping students build the listening and speaking skills they need to be successful in the ELA classroom and beyond.

Listening In-Person vs. Listening Online

When students learn remotely, some listening and speaking habits might be the same, while others may vary. For in-person learning environments, we often expect students to make eye contact with a speaker. However, students who are learning remotely will need to use other tools to show that they are remaining engaged. You can help students understand that different environments create different expectations by engaging them in discussions about similarities and differences. Visual organizers, such as a T-chart with illustrations for younger students or a Venn diagram for older students, can both capture the discussion points and serve as references to consult later.

Try these questions to get the discussion ball rolling.

  • How might an in-person speaker know you are listening? How is this similar or different when you are listening remotely?
  • What do you do if you don’t understand what an in-person speaker says? How is this similar or different if you are listening remotely?
  • How might you show that you agree with something an in-person speaker says? In what ways is this similar or different if you are listening remotely?
  • What do you do to be certain everyone understands ideas you share in person? How is this similar or different if you are speaking remotely?
  • How might you know if someone does not understand what you say in person? What are the similarities or differences when you are speaking remotely? 

Storytelling Circles

Vary this activity by using the Fishbowl method: Organize students in two groups: participants and observers. Have the participants form an inner circle, while the observers of the activity form an outer circle. Ask the observers to sketch as they listen and to retell the story to demonstrate their understandings of what they heard. Then, switch the groups and have students start a new story. Finally, debrief the activity by guiding students as they reflect on the effective listening and speaking they observed or participated in.

Describe the Photo

Students enjoy observing interesting images. Have pairs of students sit or stand back-to-back, with one student holding an image and the other a blank sheet of paper. Ask the first student to describe the image while the second student uses the oral clues to recreate it on paper.

As academic expectations increasingly require students to create, present, and learn from digital presentations, effective listening and speaking skills will continue to be essential. The time invested in your students’ listening and speaking skills now will reap benefits for them today and in the future.

The next article in the series will focus on ELA interventions for listening and speaking.