Writing and Speaking – Essential Elements in Language Arts Lesson Plans

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When you plan your lesson for your Language Arts classes, you need to have your curriculum guide by your side. Contrary to what most people think, you should never let the textbook be your guide. The objectives for your lesson come from the curriculum and if there is something in the textbook that fits with that, then good. It makes it much easier to plan.

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Let’s take a look at a common objective in Language Arts:
“Students will make personal connections to the text and share their ideas in a variety of ways.”

This objective leaves the door wide open for a whole host of possibilities. You might have three Grade 1 or Grade 5 classes in the same school and the objective is the same. The expectations are different for each grade level and the three teachers can teach completely different lessons and still achieve that objective.

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What part does writing and speaking play in achieving this objective? Let’s start by looking at what writing and speaking actually mean in the classrooms of today. Students are expected to communicate in various ways – through role-play, thinking out loud, small and large group discussion and by writing. Connecting with the text invites the students to give their own interpretation of what they read. They can use small group discussions and speak their minds by discussing the text with a group of classmates. This is often the strategy most teachers use in the higher grades where you have students that tend to be too shy to speak out in class.

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Although discussion is common in the Primary classroom, quite often the teacher has to draw out the student responses by asking questions, such as:

How did that story make you feel? Why?

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Did you like the main character? Why or why not?

What would you have done differently? Why?

Would you have done the same thing as ???

This type of questioning helps to invite the children to speak out in class. The teacher accepts all answers and often records them on the board or chart paper. While young children cannot do a lot of writing, they can still express their opinions by drawing a picture related to the text and write a sentence explaining the picture.

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Once students are exposed to this type of writing and speaking in Language Arts classes, they know what to expect as they move up through the grades. Open-ended questions are the norm in elementary, junior high and high school classes, as the types of writing and speaking take on a more formal mode. The types of expectations are also varied, so a formal connection does not have to take place with every text. Some examples of connections through writing could include responding to the text as a journal entry or writing a formal essay. Speaking can take the form of just stating an opinion, class discussion or a formal debate.

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Using these techniques you can use literature to teach proper conventions in writing and speaking without the drill and practice techniques often used in schools.

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Frances Stanford is the owner of F & D Teaching Aids – a publishing company located in Grates Cove, Newfoundland, Canada, specializing in language arts resources and novel study guides. As a retired teacher with 30 years of classroom experience, she has turned her attention to helping other teachers with their lesson planning needs.

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