Part of what I do as an ELL teacher is help students develop their English language skills in 4 domains. Reading, Writing are the two most commonly thought of. However, there are two other domains that are just as important, because without them we don't even come close to Reading & Writing. These domains are Speaking & Listening. I actually feel that it is important for all students to develop these skills. I often wonder if students struggle more in schools now because we have a concentration on more academic skills as opposed to truly developing some very necessary, life long, social skills. I digress, let me get back to my post.
Last year I had several students who were just not comfortable talking in class. No matter what we tried, they were just not ready to make the leap & respond to questions, or read aloud, sing songs. Sure they would ask me to go to the bathroom, or tell me that they didn't understand an activity but they were just not willing to go further. I wanted to find a way for them to feel safe to share with the class. One day I was reading an e-mail from Scholastic.com and I saw an article another teacher had written where she used her students pictures & a speech bubble & had them write in a message. I thought this would be the perfect baby step for my students. They didn't actually have to verbalize what they were thinking but they could share a thought or feeling. Like I said "baby steps".
I just got some Bulletin board paper, cut it to size & laminated it. I did this because I have VERY little space & I wanted to hang it in my entrance hallway. By having the paper laminated I could 1. reuse it (I'm all about the 3 R's) & 2. take the bubbles on & off without tearing the paper. Then I printed up the heading "Hey, Hey, What do you have to say?" I have several set of pictures of my students that I take at the start of every year for this very reason & I just pulled a set out. Then I purchased a set of speech bubbles from CTP & had those laminated too. Now I was ready to put it all together. It's not very cute but it works.
When I introduced the board it was an instant hit. The students LOVED it. Whenever they have a message they want to say they may go (only during independent work time) to the board & change it. I use dry erase markers so they are easy yo wipe off. The students have total control of their messages & take ownership of their messages. I do get a lot of I love... sentences but occasionally I get a good one & have to laugh to myself.
It has been such a nice addition to my classroom. I've been doing it two years and I enjoy it. What are some things you do to get your students talking in your room?