One Project Idea. Active Listening and Presenting.

Not every state has adopted Common Core. I don’t know if that will ever happen. I do know that most teachers are now under their sway. One area in which we often fail as teachers is in teaching Speaking and Listening Strategies.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating a command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

What does that mean? Students might make up a presentation, but does it really “enhance understanding?”
One solution I found is my Canterbury Pilgrims Presentations Project or CPPP. OK… I’ve never actually called it that, but I might in the future. The project is a bit in-depth.
Once my students have learned a little about the late 14th century, we read the very beginning of the prologue for the Canterbury Tales. I explain that it is a frame narrative with 30 pilgrims and 24 tales. Once they understand this, I pair the students up and assign each pair of students a pair of pilgrims (or more). The students are required to go through and get as much information about these pilgrims as possible. They must explain the tale the pilgrim tells (sometimes effectively retelling the tale). Once they are all done researching, they have to put a presentation together, organizing the information gleaned about each of the pilgrims. Their personalities, job descriptions, clothing, interactions with other characters, possessions, personal histories, etc. Once they’ve done all of that, they have to deliver the presentation.
Big deal, right? It’s just another presentation.
Here’s the kicker: once they’ve all delivered their presentations (15 or more presentations later), they get a weekend to study, and then they take the biggest, nastiest, pickiest test I can muster. They become a community, each depending upon the whole. It isn’t enough just to know the facts at that point, they have to be able to consider each fact in the context of all the other facts. The classroom is actively watching, note-taking, processing, and considering the content delivered by their peers.
My point is… listening. It’s half of the strategy- the half few like to teach.

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