Sunday, October 19, 2014

Is Listening the Lost Standard?

Last week, I attended the Connecticut Forum to listen to Charles Blow, Karl Rove and Doris Kearns Goodwin debate and discuss what is wrong with our current political system. They were supposed to, according to the program, discuss how to fix it, but most of the agreement was only on the fact that our political system is broken. 

I came away from the night worried about the political future that my daughters face, and believing that one of the most important standards in the Common Core is the one that has to do with listening. Really listening. Not waiting to have a turn to talk, but engaging in conversation that strengthens or weakens previously held beliefs. Digging into the speaking and listening standards, the one that I'm not sure that Charles Blow and Karl Rove have mastered is the first anchor standard for Speaking and Listening: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. They seemed much more interested in listening to each other in order to gather ammunition and discount the other, as opposed to listening to each other in order to build on ideas. 

To master this anchor standard, the skills build as follows: 

By the end of third grade, students should be able to explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.

By the end of eighth grade, they should be able to acknowledge new information expressed by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.

And, by the time they graduate, students should be able to respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.

I wonder, do we teach these skills? While I have pinned, shared, and developed several anchor charts about our responsibilities as partners and even some about what listeners do, some of which I am sharing here,

 I am working on some thinking stems that emphasize the integration of opposing ideas. 
  • I listened to you and your comments have made me change my original opinion because...
  • Before I listened to you I thought... but now I think...
  • Having listened to you, I feel more strongly because you said...
  • Having listened to you, I feel less strongly because you said...
  • I listened to you and I learned...
  • I listened to you and you have inspired me to learn more about...
I may also add books that emphasize listening skills to classroom libraries, but books that go beyond sitting and crossing legs, and into the integration of ideas and knowledge. I'd love some suggestions!

As a parent and as an educator, I believe in democracy and the importance of it. I want my children to grow up into a country where leaders listen and learn from each other. 

Here's to listening!


  1. I enjoy hearing your ideas, but not your worries, Melanie. Considering most of the recent tv ads are all about our coming election, I'm not sure anyone is listening, certainly not to each other. We are consistently working to help students learn well how to listen respectfully to each other & I'll share your ideas with other teachers. One thing I did when in the classroom was when we were discussing a variety of ideas, I would have those 'listening' pretend to be the person they'd just spoken with, & speak as that person in the further conversation. In other words, they were re-telling what they'd heard. Hope that might be another idea for some? Thanks for this!

  2. We truly need to meet!! We are working on a post about listening right now!!! We share your worries in every zipcode we visit!!!! Love your post --we are sharing it on Facebook right now!! We are going to be at CT reading on Friday --will you be there???