As a teacher, I’ve always loathed “springing forward,” because the vernal time change doesn’t, in fact, save time, but actually cheats us of an hour. With a dining room table perpetually plastered with mounting piles of papers to grade, I’m always on the lookout for ways of saving time by doing things more efficiently, streamlining my processes, and reducing or eliminating unnecessary procedures or steps. One of the best stack-shrinking suggestions I ever got from another teacher was to assign my students to write a short composition or paragraph using the vocabulary words we’re studying, and then listening to them (and simultaneously assessing them) as they read their work aloud.
In terms of pedagogy, there are several advantages to this exercise:
- It requires students to use the words in context — vocabulary acquisition is not complete until students start to work the words into everyday speech situations on a consistent and regular basis.
- It allows for immediate, periodic, and authentic assessment — by listening to students read their work out loud instead of lugging home more papers, students’ acquisition of new words can be evaluated orally/aurally on the spot.
- It implements the standards for speaking and listening — inviting all of the class members to participate in tallying up each speaker’s performance along with you ensures an engaged audience. One suggested scoring method, for instance, would be to award each speaker point(s) for each vocabulary word used correctly in context, and an additional point (or points) for each word the speaker pronounces correctly.
Of course, students may be reluctant, initially. Many resist reading aloud for a variety of reasons. The very first time I instituted this practice in my classroom by asking for volunteers, no hands went up. Since I’ve always had more success by taking more of a “carrot,” rather than a “stick” approach, I offered “extra credit” or “bonus points” to the first orators. Eventually, as students gained confidence in their abilities to utilize new words, the task became more competitive, less of a chore. For the entertainment of everyone in the room, and much to my (not so) secret delight, clever verbal sparring matches, referred to in the colloquial parlance of some locales as “joaning” or “playing the dozens” frequently ensued. Some of the more creative students even produced short stories, skits, or radio plays on occasion. But perhaps the best outcome of all: because this one assignment is assessed orally/aurally each week, it contributes no papers to the “to be graded” heap on the dining room table. And THAT truly saves daylight.