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Does the Teaching of Listening and Speaking Get Enough Attention?

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Over at my blog about English-language learners, Learning the Language, I discuss how many teachers don't spend much time teaching oral English to ELLs, particularly in the upper grades. My experiences in observing classrooms indicate that the teaching of speaking and listening often gets squeezed out of the curriculum.

It's very important for ELLs to practice speaking and listening in English, and I'm sure that some of you have these students in your classroom. But do you feel that all students can benefit from more of an emphasis on oral language, speaking well, or do you see this only as an issue for ELLs?

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We correctly use the dictum, "Learn to Read and then Read to Learn."

Why do we not proclaim, "Learn to Listen and then Listen to Learn?"

To me, the obviously answer is political correctness. In urban schools at least, acknowledging the listening deficits of students is condemned as an "Excuse." We have been so caught up in indicting "the sage on the stage" for a nation's ills that we've overlooked your obvious point. As long as we say that it is on the shoulders of all teachers to serve all kids by differienting all instruction, while setting high standards, while implementing the fad de dour, then we will also condemn teacher for saying the obvious - if we want kids to listen, and they are not taught at home and when listening skills are undercut by our culture, schools must teach them. That's not a minor point that individual teachers must address in their spare time. We must "teach students to be students."

I see some reason for hope. I hear the words "Socratic questioning" making a comeback. Whole School Reformers are trying to teach teachers how to ask better questions. As long as we hold to the fiction that improved classroom management is enough, those worthy professional development ideas are Dead on Arrival.

If we could just admit that SCHOOLS must teach listening skills, then we could gain traction.

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