Topics in Secondary Ed:Using Oral Language to Check for Understanding.

January 21, 2011

Oral language is the mode by which we express and understand concepts, ideas, and knowledge. Even the smallest children communicate with simple oral language to describe the things around them. It is important that teachers provide students with the proper oral languages to help them in critical thinking and learning.  There are many tools students and teachers can use to help them communicate.  By properly utilizing these tools, students can better learn ideas, and teachers can gauge more accurately their students understanding. However, some methods of communication that teachers use to check for understanding may be ineffective at truly testing for the critical thinking and understanding that students require. Many effective methods involve students communicating not only with the teacher, but also among their peers. There are many different approaches to take that reinforce learning and emphasize concrete understanding. An example of these methods is the Think-Pair-Share approach.

In order for the students to better understand the concepts and ideas being taught, they are asked to essentially mull over the things they have learned, talk about it with a partner, and then share with the entire group what they’ve discussed. The steps are simplified as thinking, pairing  up, and then sharing. This method isn’t complex and can be used with a variety of other methods. This approach is useful in that it allows the students to get feedback on their understanding in two different ways. First, students communicate with a partner. This first step may help students who are having challenges understanding something by giving them a different perspective, or help students share their combined knowledge to reach an intelligent conclusive idea. Second, as students share with the class their understanding of the topic can be spread to other students who may not have had that perspective before, and may integrate it into their current schema. For teachers this is an invaluable way to check for understanding in that it allows them to hear from students almost individually, and they can address issues as they arise from each group to better assist those individuals and the class as a whole.

Think-Pair-Share is an interesting technique. I am having trouble applying it to an Art classroom. Techniques and skills are primarily individually practiced, but ideas and concepts such as culture and history could be topics that thrive using Think-Pair-Share. For example, when discussing Van Gogh, students could discuss what influenced him, and why he painted the way he did. There are many more applications for these topics and they would probably help students better understand ideas that could help influence their own art.

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