Being able to communicate with others verbally is one of the most important skills you can learn, and can improve your outcomes in all areas of life – personal, academic and career oriented. Though we live in the 21st century, with a smartphone in every pocket, you will not be able to get by in life through your mastery of text-messages, emails and DM’s (sorry guys).

But being a successful communicator isn’t just about learning how to talk to others – it is also about learning how to listen. 

Over the course of the semester we’ll be building your skills as a public speaker and an active listener. You’ll be assessing each other as we go along as well, and providing feedback to classmates (as well as receiving feedback from me). You will eventually be graded on your performance as a speaker and active listener based on your ability to demonstrate 16 key skills:

  1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  2. Come to discussions prepared having read and researched material under study and draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
  3. Work with peers to set rules for collegiate discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.
  4. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that engage others’ reasoning and evidence and ensures that you are hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue.
  5. Clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions of others in a respectful manner that promote divergent and creative perspectives.
  6. Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives by synthesizing comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue.
  7. Work together to resolve contradictions in information when possible and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task/discussion.
  8. Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems.
  9. Evaluate the credibility and accuracy of all sources and note any discrepancies among the data.
  10. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, connection among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.
  11. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, so that listeners can follow the line of reasoning.
  12. Address perspectives that are alternative or opposed to your own, and do so in a counter argument where the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience.
  13. Make strategic use of digital media (textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
  14. Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating a command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
  15. Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
  16. Vary syntax for effect, consulting references for guidance as needed; apply an understanding of syntax to the study of complex texts when reading.

Before you are assessed though, you’ll need to learn how to do these things and practice. 🙂 Working in your groups, you need to watch the following videos and answer two questions:

What makes a ‘good’/active listener?

What makes a ‘good’/effective communicator’?

Then, you’ll need to work on step 3 above – “Work with peers to set rules for collegiate discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.” Establish who will fulfill the following roles for your group:

The ‘Eyes’ of the group works to look for resources to be used in discussion – they conduct research and are responsible for sharing documents and information with the group. If something needs to be found to improve discussion or arguments, they look for it. They are also responsible for keeping their ‘eye’ on all group members to ensure they are fully engaged, and reports any lack of engagement to the other group members and the teacher.

The ‘Ears’ of the group are in charge of assessing if active listening is taking place, and redirecting group members when it becomes clear that it is not. They report any group members that are not actively listening to the other members and the teacher. They have an important role in ensuring true communication is taking place. These students also are responsible for actively listening to other groups and the teacher, and relaying that information back to their group.

The ‘Nose’ of the group is responsible for sniffing out the accuracy and honesty of statements and resources being used. They check for bias and reliability in all resources and documents the group decides to reference. They also work to give feedback to group members when their communication seems bias or disingenuous. Any use of plagiarism or overly bias/disrespectful communication is identified by the nose and reported to the group and teacher. When debating with other groups, they are responsible for checking the opponents’ credibility.

The ‘Mouth’ is the group member who checks that others are using effective verbal communication. They must assess if others are demonstrating the seven traits of effective speakers, and give feedback based on their performance. Group members that consistently cannot improve verbal communication are reported to the teacher by the mouth. When conversing with other groups, they are the first member to speak on behalf of their party.