Journeys April Newsletter

The Academy Awards: Part 1
by Erik Palmer, Veteran Teacher, Author, Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Journeys Program Consultant

I attended an Oscar party this year. On the evening of the television show, we all arrived at the hosts’ house and were given an Oscar ballot as we walked in. Each of us marked off our predicted winner for each of the many awards to be given. While this could be used as a wagering tool, we simply used it to help sustain interest during the long show. “Yes! Best black-and-white short documentary in a foreign language! I have five points now!” As I marked my ballot, I noticed that there are many awards for acting and many for writing. This is not a particularly astute observation. I am sure you noticed this as well. What may have escaped your notice is how profoundly this distinction should impact the way we understand and teach speaking.

Someone creates the words. Someone delivers the words. These are two distinct talents. The writer is probably not a great performer. The performer is not likely to be a great writer. But all speaking involves these two very different parts. Whether we are speaking one-on-one, to a small group, to a large audience, in-person, or digitally, both parts are involved. And for all us regular folks, to be effective oral communicators we have to master both parts by ourselves.

Understanding the distinction between creating and delivering is the first step in becoming effective teachers of oral communication. I refer to these two parts as building a speech and performing a speech. "Building" refers to everything we do before we open our mouths; "performing" refers to everything we do as we are speaking.

Let’s think about building a speech first. Sometimes the process is instantaneous—coming up with what to yell at the umpire after a bad call. Sometimes we work hard to construct our comments—deciding what to say at the eulogy. But before we speak, we do certain things. If we want to be effective, we think about the audience and design our talk specifically for them; we come up with content; we organize our words; we may design some aids for the talk; and we adjust our appearance to fit the situation. Again, we do this for all verbal communication, whether our audience is one person (interview), a few people (discussion), many people (presentation), or digitally (podcast), but we often do these things without giving them all as much thought as we should. Some people are very good at building speeches (professional speechwriters exist, right?) and some students will excel at this part of oral communication. All students, though, and indeed, all speakers, need to understand what is required before we ever utter a word.

Of course it makes no difference how well remarks are constructed if they are never spoken. I prefer to use the word performance rather than the word delivery because I think the former does a better job of conveying what is really involved. In any event, as we speak, we need to do certain things. We need to be poised; we need voices that make it possible for every word to be heard; we need some life in our voices to avoid being dull and boring; we need to make eye contact with audience members; we need to gesture at the right times and in the right amounts; and we need to pay attention to speed and pacing. If we do those things, we will be effective conveying the message no matter what the situation is—interview, discussion, or presentation. Some people are very good at performing (professional speakers exist, right?) and some students excel at this part of oral communication. But, again, all students need to understand is what is required as they speak.

We have buried our students with a dizzying number of descriptors in an attempt to tell them what to focus on: content, subject knowledge, information, appropriate facts, the 5 Ws, clear message, articulation, enunciation, elocution, clearly, intonation, expression, inflection, enthusiasm, vocal modulation, pitch, volume, loudly, projection, and so on. Using different vocabulary from class to class is confusing to students. As a school, develop a common language for talking about and teaching speaking. Whatever language you use, clearly separate the words that describe what we do before we speak from the words that describe what we do as we speak. I sometimes get a “Well, duh” reaction when I explain this, as if everyone already knows this. At some intuitive level, I think we all do know this, but look around your building. How many teachers specifically talk to students about this crucial distinction? How many score sheets and rubrics are being used in your building that don’t keep these separate (e.g., “Content, vocabulary, and delivery are appropriate”)? How many students can articulate, “Well, I’m pretty good at constructing a talk but not so good at giving it” or vice versa? If we all know this, why is there so often little evidence of it?

The distinction between building a speech and performing a speech is profound, and understanding that distinction will make a profound difference in the way students and teachers approach all oral communication. It is the starting place for mastering speaking.


Component Spotlight

Journeys Literacy and Language Guide

In need of an incredible number of resources to support your Balanced Literacy classroom? Look no further. The Journeys Literacy and Language Guide, designed by Irene Fountas and Shane Templeton, features minilessons and planning support for Reading, Writing, and Word Study Workshops. Inside you will find Shared Reading/Interactive Read Aloud Lessons and minilessons for all of the Journeys Big Book, Read Aloud Book, and Student Book selections (Read Aloud, Anchor Text, and Connected Text). For Guided Reading, there is a resource that organizes the Leveled Readers so the right text for the right student is at your fingertips. Word Study sections of the guide include Vocabulary and Spelling/Phonics minilessons and incorporate word sorts and activities from Shane Templeton's Words Their Way®. Lastly, you will find writing minilessons that cover process, traits, and genre, and that tie to the weekly writing scope and sequence in Journeys.

TIP: Customize Spelling/Phonics lists for students who are above or below level by using the alternative lists provided with each lesson. Look for the Differentiated Instruction heading.

Technology Tips

Get the Most out of Your Journeys Digital Resources

Have you and your students tried the HMH Player® app? This app was created specifically for the way you and your students navigate and interact. Your students can download class content when their devices have Internet access, and still connect to that content when offline. They can monitor their own progress and parents can too by using their child's account. This app also has lesson customization features and assignment and progress tracking tools that save you time and help you improve learning outcomes.

TIP: Get students engaged in collaborative work by using the app's Collaborative Classroom Session tool, a way to digitally gather your class together on their Player-enabled devices. Students can digitally raise their hands and you can monitor student engagement and participation using a scanable student list.

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Q: What is the rationale for the order that letters are introduced in the Journeys Grade K phonics scope and sequence?
A: Instruction teaches sounds that are salient in letters’ names, such as /s/, /m/, /t/, and separates sounds and patterns that are confusing, such as /m/ and /n/, /b/ and /d/. These letter-sound association lessons begin in Lesson 3 in Kindergarten and provide the bedrock for blending sounds in printed words during Lesson 11. Short vowel instruction occurs early and often, beginning with the vowels most common in Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) words so learners are empowered to build and read words from the start. By Lesson 11 in Kindergarten, emerging readers have the bedrock for launching into blending sounds in printed words. At this point, students will have learned a total of five consonants and one vowel, empowering learners to build, read, spell, and write a minimum of 12 common words and names.

Q: Where can I find the ELD Oral Language Chants in Journeys 2017? They are listed as resources in the ELD Planning and Pacing Guide at the beginning of each unit.
A: The Oral Language Chants or Dialogues for English learners are housed at the end of the Weekly Lesson Booklets in the Grab-and-Go Resources, beginning with Lesson 16 of Grade 1.

Q: What is the difference between Grade 1 Decodable Books and Blend-It Books?
A: The Decodable Book is a full-color, multi-story bound little book filled with decodable texts that are referenced in the application section of each Journeys Phonics lesson. The Blend-It Books are blackline masters of additional decodable texts, not the same as the Decodable Books, intended for extra practice or to send home. The Blend-It Books would be optional, but the Decodable Books are incorporated into the Phonics instruction for every lesson.

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