Today I got to present a workshop for the Los Angeles County of Education on integrating listening, speaking, and writing tasks in the Social Studies classroom. Here is the agenda and slides.
The agenda for today’s workshop.
This school year, two colleagues and I have been conducting some research on speaking and listening skills in our classrooms. Part of this work was funded by an ASCD Teacher Impact Grant and will be presented at their Empower 17 conference in Anaheim on March 25, 2017. Thanks to the Constitutional Rights Foundation and WestEd some of this work will continue for the next two years due to an additional grant focused on expanding teacher practice networks.
As part of this work, we piloted some listening assessments with Listenwise, a company that aligns National Public Radio content with content standards in ELA, Social Studies and Science. I assigned 11 listening quizzes to my students. On average, students were able to answer 72.8% of the questions correctly. This represents a substantial improvement on a Stauffer, Frost & Rybolt (1983) national study, which found that people, on average, only remember 17.2% of what they hear on the TV news. To increase comprehension, Listenwise offers a variety of supports: academic vocabulary, EL scaffolding, transcripts, and the ability to slow down the audio.
After the semester was over, I asked students to voluntarily fill out the following survey. What follows is my brief analysis of the results. Please note, this is not an empirically validated survey. Further, it is a very small (N=35) population of high school students’ opinions to really generalize about. Nonetheless, these students viewed these listening activities in an overwhelmingly positive light. Read on for the actual details and my interpretations.
More than 70% of my students thought the Listenwise content they heard in class increased their understanding of the historical event under study.
Approximately two-thirds of my students felt that hearing Listenwise stories before reading the textbook helped them understand the events better. This finding is contradicted by another question where only 8% of students would prefer to use Listenwise as a preview to a new historical unit, as opposed to test review, homework, or classwork.
About 53% of my students would prefer to hear Listenwise content during class, so they could discuss the stories with their fellow students. Interestingly, only 30% of students selected this option on a similar question later in the survey.
Half of my students felt that Listenwise stories helped them understand academic vocabulary better.
Slightly less than half of my students would prefer to hear Listenwise content at home, so they could think about the story before answering questions about it. Only 20% of students selected the Listenwise as homework option on a subsequent survey question.
A two-thirds majority of my students felt that Listenwise stories help them understand the importance of historical events.
More than 60% of my students felt they understand more academic vocabulary from hearing it on Listenwise than they do from reading the academic vocabulary in our textbook. Research by Nonie Lesaux suggests that students need to know 50,000 words before they leave high school to be successful in college.
The most popular reasons for hearing Listenwise stories were to review before exams, for classwork, and as homework. I was surprised that using Listenwise to preview a new historical topic was not as popular because that is mainly how I have used the content. I would be interested in learning how other teachers are using Listenwise and look forward to hearing their results from the teachers who took part in their pilot.
Almost three-quarters of my students responded that hearing Listenwise stories makes them more confident when speaking about the Social Studies topic. This is consistent with research that suggests students can “hear” 3-4 grades above their reading comprehension levels.
About 64% of my students reported that hearing Listenwise stories after reading the textbook gives them a greater understanding or perspective of the historical events. This is consistent with research that suggests students see a vivid, full color picture in their mind when listening versus students note trouble empathizing with what is going on in a grainy, black & white historical video. Please see (Colby, 2010) for more on the importance of using historical empathy to help students contextualize events from the past.
Whenever schools and districts spend money on new programs, there should be some evaluation and cost benefit analysis. Because good listening skills are highly correlated with historical thinking, building empathy, and many other social emotional learning skills, I feel that Listenwise is worth the investment. If you would be interested in seeing how your students perceive their learning with Listenwise, feel free to make a copy of this Google Form and customize it for use in your class. Please post a link to your results in my comments section and let me know what you find out.
This Fall, I have been using a video response tool called Flipgrid to help improve my students’ speaking skills. Flipgrid is a video platform used by over 30,000 teachers to ignite classroom discussions and promote social learning. In Flipgrid, teachers post discussion topics to which students respond with videos, providing every student an equal voice, increasing retention, and encouraging peer-led learning. Full Disclosure: Flipgrid asked me to join their Ambassador program and bribed me with stickers, t-shirts, and love. This program rocks and I have fallen in love with Flipgrid.
Since September, my students have created 304 video responses to 10 topics on 5 grids. They have viewed each others’ videos 6,324 times resulting in 1 year and 139 days of total viewing time. After some trial and error, I primarily use two grids: US History and World History for the majority of my assignments. I can add new topics and keep the majority of my student work organized. I am trying to use Flipgrid once or twice a month to check for understanding and see how well students can verbalize their thought process. Part of the impetus for using Flipgrid came from my principal who is fond of asking “How do you know if they have learned from your instruction?” With Flipgrid, I can just click and let my students speak for themselves.
In the above example, I asked my students to play a “Who Am I?” game with their individual Enlightenment Philosophes. The students had 90 seconds to tell us everything about their philosophe except their name, then we would use the videos to review for the final exam on the Enlightenment. Because Flipgrid allows you to download the individual videos, I was able to upload the best to YouTube (unlisted) and then create a video Kahoot for the students to use as a review game. This was a big hit.
So far, I have asked my World History students to explain differences between Roman and US checks and balances in government, paraphrase three stories from The Adventures of Ulysses, and elaborate on historical details from the French Revolution. My US History students have had to conduct to a say, mean, matter on the Preamble to the constitution, justify eliminating four Amendments from the Bill of Rights, demonstrate an Academic Conversation about Imperialism, tell the story of the Panama Canal, and preview three arguments for an essay about civil disobedience. I am at the beginning of my Flipgrid adventure. This tool will help me show growth in student speaking skills. I can see using Flipgrid this spring to fine tune the work I am doing with my ASCD Teacher Impact Grant colleagues as we participate in a video lesson study on student speaking skills. Further, by sharing Flipgrid with the 300 Social Studies teachers participating in the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s Teacher 2 Teacher Collaborative, this important tool can dramatically increase the amount of student speaking assignments in classrooms. Try Flipgrid One for free and share how you used it in the comments section.
Here is a copy of the deck, Corbin Moore and I used for our 2016 NCSS Presentation: Gamifying Speaking & Listening.
The NCSS Social Studies Performance-Based Assessment Clearinghouse has been created to provide:
- examples of social studies performance-based assessment measures conducted at local and state levels
- research findings that support the use of performance-based assessment to inform instruction, and
- existing educational policies that can inform advocacy efforts for the inclusion of social studies performance-based assessment at the local, state and national level.
Many teachers have created their own performance assessments that could be included in this archive. For instance, my students were recently asked to take notes on a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte. Then, they were asked to use their textbook to corroborate or match the historical details from the video biography and provide a page number as a citation.
The chart above illustrates that advanced students were able to corroborate 12-20 facts in one 53-minute class period, while lower-achieving students could only match 1 to 5 historical details from the textbook to the film in the same timeframe. This population of 9th and 10th grade World History students (N=30) had an average performance of 7.87 historical matches. This activity gives students a purpose for taking notes and immediate feedback on the usefulness of their note-taking techniques. The image below shows how students matched video content to the historical details in their textbook.
Some teachers from Covina Valley USD saw my presentation at the Los Angeles Country of Education last year and they asked me to present at their district.
I like to have teachers create a Google Doc of the ideas they generate from my presentation. Everyone leaves with lots of great ideas that can be immediately rolled into their instructional program.