images-10-44-18-pmA recent online article points to the continued need for public speaking and the four
reasons why millennials should develop their public speaking skills. Why are these skills not addressed in our secondary classrooms? One reason is that it is more complex than we may originally think. If it is a complex measure as your first language, what could make it possibly more complex? A second language.

Professor Rose van der Zwaard of the University of Amsterdam explains the problematic teaching methods of the past, and the possible reasons for failure to launch a second language. During her presentation, she gave the example of her own son who studied at a school in the Netherlands that has an outstanding reputation. While there, he studied images-1French, but the teacher made the students spend an enormous amount of time conjugating verbs. When they went to Paris for vacation, the professor asked her son to go to the counter to order a croissant. He returned to ask her, “How do you say croissant in French?” (This is not a joke). Explicit knowledge transfer does not work for language acquisition if there is no communicative activities in which the students are “making meaning” (i.e. discussion, deliberation, debate).

Dr. Ian Tudor goes deeper when he writes that we must learn to live with the complexity of language teaching. Ultimately, Tudor points to the need for “local” decision making for the teaching of language. He points to the recent trend of technology and how “technology offers potential, but does not in itself guarantee that a given result will be obtained, not in a complex human activity like teaching.” Tudor’s thought on the explosion of “edu-technology” flies in the face of the overwhelming trend in U.S. schools of spending more money on expensive technology. The concept of “localism” is defined as ethnographic in the sense that it explores the “cultures of learning” in order to accurately address the needs of students, and therefore any possible language intervention.

In “Classroom Discussion: Models for Leading Seminars and Deliberations,” Walter Parker looks at the differences with discussions and deliberations in social studies classrooms. As an English teacher, I have offered deliberations in my classroom in order to increase spoken language and critical thinking. Basically, the difference is that a discussion leads to the finding of common ground by the students, whereas deliberations are a discussion-imagesdebate hybrid that leads to students voting (this can include Mock Trial). Parker worries that students (and society) have taken democracy for granted, and there is a need to teach our children the need for discourse and voting. Parker further points to the multiple obstacles in current classrooms as to why more discussion is not offered. One of these reasons is that fact that teachers were not taught this way, and teachers tend to fall back on the way they were taught in secondary schools! Parker observed two teachers over the course of his study, pointing to the fact that one teaches for discussion and the other teaches for deliberation. Below is a small chart that delineates the differences. The Teaching Channel offers a great lesson with video on “Scaffolding for Socratic Seminar” for our English language learners.

Table 1. A Typology of Discussion (Shared Inquiry)

Dimensions Seminar Deliberation
Purpose 1. Reach an enlarged understanding of a powerful text.

2. Improve discussants’ powers of understanding.

1. Reach a decision about what a “we” should do about a shared problem.

2. Improve discussants’ powers of understanding.

Subject Matter Ideas, issues, and values in a print or film selection, artwork, performance, or political cartoon. Alternative courses of action related to a public problem.
Opening Question What does ______ mean? What should we do?
Exemplar Socratic Seminar Public Issues Model

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