As you consider how to teach SL.4-6 in middle school, make sure it is covered with fidelity, using the ideas, activities, and resources to set a foundation you can easily build from.
Being able to present and support a claim may be one of the most important standards we focus on in middle school.
The SL.4-6 standards require students to be put in situations, present ideas, and stand by them. They are expected to do this in presentation-like situations as well as in groups and even one-on-one. This is an example of an employable skill that students will need as they move into college and the workforce.
The skills students learn while presenting a claim and supporting it will come up when they write a cover letter, go in for an interview, or are trying to give a suggestion or present an idea in the workplace. They will need this skill if they decide to apply for college and will need it when they are hanging around the Thanksgiving dinner table arguing with their older relatives about the best football team in the NFL in week 12.
There are many different levels to mastering this standard, so we strongly recommend making a plan from the very beginning of the year. How are you going to get students into the right situations where you can explicitly teach them this skill and give feedback? Likewise, how will you give them a chance to practice with less expectation and pressure?
As we start talking about how to teach SL.4-6 in middle school, let’s start by laying out the learning targets!
By focusing on learning targets, we can model our lessons to hit very specific goals and skills. In this post, we talk about how we break down each standard and make a plan for learning, practicing, and reviewing the standards throughout the year using the checklists below.
These checklists are great for helping teachers plan and consider the nuances from grade level to grade level.
Here are the learning targets on which we developed our resources for SL.4-6.
7th Grade Standard: Present important findings in a coherent manner with appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation; include multimedia projects or visual displays, adapt my speech to a variety of tasks and contexts, and demonstrate a command of formal English when appropriate.
7th Grade Learning Targets
- I can present important findings in a coherent manner using descriptions, facts, details, and examples and presenting with appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
- I can include multimedia projects or visual displays when they will be helpful in clarifying and emphasizing information
- I can adapt my speech to a variety of tasks and contexts and demonstrate a command of formal English when appropriate.
8th Grade Standard: Present claims and findings in a coherent manner with relevant evidence while using appropriate presentation skills, integrating multimedia and visual displays, and demonstrating a command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
8th Grade Learning Targets
- I can present claims and findings (e.g., argument, narrative, response to literature presentations), emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner.
- I can present using appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciations while integrating multimedia and visual displays to enhance presentations.
- I can adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
The core of the 7th-grade SL.4-6 standards is being able to present a claim and the support for that claim in a coherent manner in a variety of contexts. It is not enough to have students do just 1-2 speeches. These standards suggest speaking and giving presentations should be an ongoing part of your classroom’s foundation.
When we discussed SL.1-3, we talked at length about Socratic Seminars. Socratic Seminars will continue to work as you assess SL.4-6.
You may also want to add in some formal speeches of different types, as well as small group presentations, video-based presentations, and even social media campaigns.
Our job as teachers is to make sure students can master the standards, but we also have to make sure they are doing so in a way that is relevant now, and we would not be doing our jobs if we didn’t include social media as a way to present and support a claim.
Plan to have a variety of speaking assignments taking place throughout the year!
Starting with “I Believe…”
A big part of the SL.4-6 standards falls on the student’s ability to make a claim, support it, and present it in a coherent manner. One of the most important parts is stating the claim itself.
One of the ways we like to teach students to create a claim is by starting with “I believe…” Ultimately, we want students to be able to create a claim without their first-person pronouns included, but it is hard for middle school students to think bigger than themselves, so we provide them with this stepping stone.
By starting their claim with “I believe…” and then (more importantly) removing that part from the final claim. Students can start where they’re comfortable but still accomplish the ultimate goal.
For example, if I start with a claim, “I believe the homework is necessary for ultimate mastery of a topic long-term.” Then, I can easily remove the “I believe…” part and get a more professional-sounding claim that isn’t foundationally established in the first person.
“Homework is necessary for the ultimate mastery of a topic long-term.”
Different Types of Visual Displays
Here are a few different types of visual displays you may encourage students to use as they practice presenting their arguments. Spend some time brainstorming with students to come up with your own list of classroom displays.
- PowerPoints (Handout of tips available in both of our standard resources)
- Posters (Handout of tips available in both of our standard resources)
- Videos (Handout of tips available in both of our standard resources)
- Canva Presentations
- Social Media Campaigns
- Physical Manipulatives
Encourage students to consider the positives and negatives of each type of visual display and choose the one that is BEST for the topic they are presenting. We don’t want students choosing visual displays “just because.”
Resources for teaching SL.4-6
When picking resources to help teach SL.4-6, you’ll want to make sure the resource teaches, practices, and reviews the standard at the appropriate level for the students you’re teaching. Since these standards usually require bigger presentations and ongoing conversation, the units below are designed to provide the foundation needed to master these standards.
Each of these resources works through the standard using grade-level-specific language and activities that help the student develop the standard completely.
The resources include a lesson/activity for each specific learning target or concept and also include assessments, posters, and answer keys.
Activities and Projects for Practicing and Assessing SL.4-6 in Middle School
- Speaking Tips: Don’t expect students to know what good speaking looks like. Give them tips and watch examples of speeches that model those tips well. In the 7th grade resource, students will watch and record observations from 3 different speakers.
- Same Speech, Different Contexts: Adapting a speech from one context to another is a great way to identify the “meat” of the speech but also work on word choice and audience awareness. This is an activity students experience in our 7th grade resource.
- Active and Passive Voice: Spend time talking about the differences between each and why they are used and fine-tuned as part of the speaking process.
- Use Graphic Organizers: In our 7th and 8th grade resources, we strongly promote the use of graphic organizers to help students remember all the pieces of an argument and make sure the claims they present are well thought out.
As you make a plan for how to teach SL.4-6 in middle school ELA, take the time to really think about all the skills it takes to actually master this standard. It is more than just getting up and giving a speech one time. This standard is actually about everything from creating a claim to support, researching and making a presentation plan, practicing speaking skills, and more.
It takes time to do these standards well, but hopefully, the information in this post will make it a little easier.