Visit to Mount Pleasant_ Michigan_ USA

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					                                  Visit to Ontario, Canada
                                 14th to 22nd February 2009

Dialogic teaching – the impact of speaking and listening on learning

Staff from:
St Mary‟s RC Primary School, Lowestoft
Dell Primary School, Lowestoft
St Louis Catholic Middle School, Bury St Edmunds
Sidegate Primary School, Ipswich

Group leader:
Stephen Turp, County Adviser for Assessment, Suffolk County Council

Hosts in Ontario:

Keewatin-Patricia District School Board ( Lakewood & King George VI Schools, Kenora)
Kenora Catholic District School Board (St. Thomas Aquinas District High & Pope John Paul II Schools,
Rainy River District School Board (Huffman & JW Walker Schools, Fort Frances)
Northwest Catholic District School Board (St Francis & St Michael’s Schools, Fort Frances)

Eight members of staff from Suffolk schools from primary and secondary phases were involved
plus an LA representative as group leader. The teachers came from primary and middle schools
and they represented the three areas of Suffolk. The teachers had backgrounds in a range of
subjects and had a variety of experience including: senior leadership, subject leader, class teacher
and support staff. Everyone was familiar with the value of speaking and listening and has already
begun to implement aspects in their own schools.

The main purpose of our visit was to study the way learners engage with speaking and listening
activities; how progress in speaking and listening is captured and how the impact of this is planned
and measured to provide a personalised learning experience in all aspects of the curriculum. We
hoped to see if there was anything we could learn which might influence provision within our own
schools, clusters of schools and in Suffolk. We also wanted to find out if any of the schools had
considered speaking and listening when designing their curriculum.

Our visit had two main objectives:

   To gain an understanding of how schools in another country are developing speaking
      and listening.

   To gain an understanding of the impact of existing and developing systems for engaging
      learners in dialogic experiences and how this is measured by schools.

We developed more detailed aims in the context of key research questions for the visit. We used
the SWOT analysis carried out before our visit to develop a set of questions which would be used
as the framework for gathering evidence during the visit:

   How is progress in speaking and listening captured?

   How is speaking and listening used to organise their own thinking?

   Is the use of scaffolding identified in planning?

   How are key questions used to promote critical thinking ( links to philosophy)?

   What strategies are used to develop speaking and listening skills?

   How is the class organised to support speaking and listening?

   Are speaking and listening opportunities planned or are they a result of the direction of
      the lesson?

    It soon became very clear that we had planned an extensive range of research questions and
that these were too wide ranging for the time we had. We chose priorities for each day so that we
would clarify any points raised from previous visits and to make the best use of our time the
following day.

         Our visit was planned to illustrate the diversity of provision for S&L in Ontario. We received
general briefings from 3 of the 4 School Boards at the start of our visit to their schools and then the
rest of each day was spent visiting schools. Most were part of the area wide Oral Language
Programme as pioneered by Peter Hill and Carmel Crevola. We were offered visits to 8 schools.
Sometimes we visited as one large group and at other times we split into smaller groups to gain the
maximum time with classes. This afforded colleagues an opportunity to experience a wide range of
educational settings and to work with a variety of colleagues.
Initially we met with a range of professionals who worked within the Ontario area. Together they
provided a valuable insight into the diversity of the education system being used in the area and
were willing to answer all of our questions and queries. This helped to highlight some of the
similarities that exist within our situation in Suffolk and theirs and identified and explained the
differences, which later proved to be vital information.

The schools are organised with variations across Canada but the following structure is typical in

Elementary school covers ages 3-13 grouped as Junior Kindergarten (JK), Senior Kindergarten
(SK) and 1st to 8th Grade.

High school covers 14-18 year olds, 9th to 12th Grade.

This is an outline of the week‟s programme:

Sunday 15th February
After a late arrival to Winnipeg the night before, we had the day to ourselves to acclimatize to the
country and low temperatures! We made good use of the day with some people attending the local
church and others visiting the activities at the “Voyageur Festival”. Ice carving, sleigh rides and hot
chocolate were the order of the day. The day was finished off with a group meal.

Monday 16th February
This was a local public holiday; “Family Day”. We boarded our bus for the 2.5 hour drive thr ough
the Canadian wilderness to arrive at Kenora, our home for the next two days. As it was a public
bank holiday, we had the day to ourselves and enjoyed a long walk in the snow including a drive
across the Ice Road.

Tuesday 17th February
Today we met with our first hosts, Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, at Lakewood School
(ages 3-13), one of the schools under the Board‟s jurisdiction. The Board Director and a few of the
Principals from the local schools provided us with a comprehensive overview of the educational
system in the region. The morning‟s presentation and discussion centred around the reasons why
the Board had made a decision, four years ago, to focus on S&L in their district. An increasing
number of „First Nation‟ families (aboriginal families), were being drawn into towns and their
children were starting to attend schools in the area. Most of these pupils did not speak English. To
our surprise many were described as “a lingual”, without any language skills at all and could do no
more than point or make a low inarticulate sound. A brief look at the data collected by the Board at
school, and pupil level was demonstrated. This was used by neighboring schools to provide
support to each other and by the Board to target support and resources.
The afternoon was spent with the neighboring Kenora Catholic District School Board, where we
were given an overview of the way the faith school system was organised. We were given a tour of
the three schools on the campus and introduced to the „Student Success Teacher, who works on
intervention strategies to ensure students graduate.
The High school, St Thomas Aquinas, had clearly been designed with older pupils‟ needs in mind.
The wide corridors and specialist rooms were well presented and respected by the students. The
two Elementary Schools were even newer, well resourced and welcoming .

Wednesday 18th February
Half the group returned to Lakewood school and half went to King George (3-13). In both cases we
were taken around by the schools‟ Special Assignment Teachers to a number of classes. These

staff led and supports the oral literacy work in the school. In the second half of the day the groups
swapped schools.
There was no doubt that this was an extremely rewarding day, where we experienced a large
range of strategies being successfully employed to promote S&L. The enthusiasm of the staff and
the welcome we received was overwhelming and we came back with a hugely positive feeling.
Later this day we made the 2.5 hour drive to Fort Frances, our final destination for school visits.

Thursday 19th February
The day started with a visit to the Rainy River District School Board. The Director gave us an
overview of the Board‟s work.
Our first visit of the day was to Huffman School (ages 3-11), a very small school with less than 10
fte staff. 80-85% of pupils were First Nation and additionally 80% of pupils were transient. The
school faced a wide range of social and economic issues. The school had successfully provided a
safe a secure environment for its pupils. Breakfast Club, community events and liaison with Social
Services was a strong feature of the school‟s caring approach.
After a lunch provided by the Board we were taken to JW Walker school (ages 3-13), which was a
newly built school, created from the demolition of 2 smaller schools in the area. The school was
noted for its high use of technology and this was evident from the few classes we observed. The
high use of interactive whiteboards, visualisers and digital voting pads was evident.

Friday 20th February
Today was truncated due to the 6 hour drive we needed to make back to Winnipeg. Brief visits
were made to two very small Elementary schools within the Northwest Catholic District School Board;
St Francis & St Michael’s. Both were extremely welcoming but we had only a short time in each to make any
observations before boarding our minibus for the long drive back.

Saturday 21st February
After a late awakening we boarded our lunchtime flight for the 24hour journey back to the UK.

Conclusions from our group:

How is progress in speaking and listening captured?

      The main focus has been on the process rather than the capture - this gives the freedom to
       develop and embed the strategies they want to develop.
      Use of a wide range of recording tools (dictaphones, videos, photos and class books) are
      Effective use of checklists/grids as a diagnostic tool to inform teacher of the next steps.
      A Board wide collection of data; beginning to include speaking and listening, is used to
       target resources and provide support within the Board. The data is not used in a judgmental
      Observing a small number of individual pupils at anyone time makes the task of collecting
       evidence more manageable.

What strategies are used to develop S & L skills?
A wide range of strategies are used within the classroom, some of which are outlined below:
    Role play - developing and understanding different points of view.
    Talking about why we need to listen and why we need to talk.
    Use of visual media to promote discussion.
    Use of props - to include props and experiences of First Nation children.
    Display Table - items from a story are displayed and links explained by the children, which
      encourages prediction and high level questioning.
    Close eyes - visualize and thinking time.
    Talking partners
    Mystery Box (20 questions)
    Barrier games
    Sequencing photos and pictures in groups - encouraging negotiation and compromise.
    Response partners
    Teacher gives clues and response time for reluctant speaker.
    Encouraging the key elements of S & L - eye contact etc.
    Making predictions and taking risks.
    Small group discussion.

Are speaking and listening opportunities planned or they a result of the lesson itself?
    Opportunities for speaking and listening are planned for using a variety of strategies and foci
      as stated in the appendices.
    Speaking and listening opportunities are related to children‟s own experiences.
    Children are identified for further intervention programs which are mainly done in the
      classroom environment; these include the needs of First Nation children.
    Opportunities for unplanned speaking and listening tasks was evident and developed well.

How is speaking and listening used to organise own thinking and used as scaffolding?

      Reinforcement and development of collegiate strategies displayed and used in earlier year
      Importance and value is given to each child‟s prior experiences.
      Children are encouraged to take risks, and then build on feedback before having another
       attempt at their work.
      Children are encouraged to make predictions and reflect upon them critically.
      Visual and practical relevant steps for problem solving activities are constantly modeled and

How is the class organised to support speaking and listening?

      Children are trained in the skills required to be a good speaker and listener.
      Large classroom spaces with smaller class sizes.
      Kidney shaped tables for guided work and desks which can be moved quickly and easily.

      Full use made of floor space.
      Sound systems for teachers and children in all classrooms.
      Team teaching and adult support to allow free time to help in other classes.
      Prompts for strategies around the classroom, developed by children and teachers to state
       why they need to listen, talk and read.
      Partner work.
      Visual and kinesthetic strategies to promote speaking and listening.
      Organization of the school day promotes improved concentration ( 100min lesson – 20mins
       outside play – 20min nutrition break - 100min lesson – 20mins outside play – 20min nutrition
       break – 100min lesson); resulting in no one heavy meal and drop off in concentration in the
       afternoon; plenty of outside play.

How are key questions used to promote critical thinking?
An important way of promoting critical thinking is the use of key questions:

      In JK and SK relevant artifacts, are used build on the experiences which children bring to
       school. These promote critical thinking and generate discussion e.g. tikinagan (First Nations
       baby sling). Responses reflected the children‟s different levels of ability and teacher‟s skill in
       questioning. ( See appendix 1) „Our pupils walk in two worlds.‟
      The use of visual images such as photos including those commissioned to reflect First
       Nations heritage encouraged pupils identified as „at risk‟ to engage in discussion. (See
       appendix 2).
      The style of questioning as modeled by SATs has encouraged confidence amongst class
       teachers. (See appendix 3).
      Teacher intervention and questioning. As pupils get older teachers plant a question which
       engenders discussion and allows pupils to own the outcome. (See appendix 4)
      Big questions: further development includes questioning which explores wider issues and
       their impact on different people/groups where pupils show empathy for others. (See
       appendix 5).


The strategies and methodologies we observed were very similar, if not identical to those currently
employed in the Suffolk schools represented on this trip. We found there to be a noticeable
difference between boards and schools as to how much they implemented speaking and listening
strategies. Older children in schools who had not had the grounding in speaking and listening skills
in the early years, were not as confident as those that had. Even though the Oral Language
Program was devised to support First Nation children, it had a significant effect on the oth er
children in the schools as it was delivered as a whole class approach and embedded in everything.
Increased scores in provincial testing have highlighted the impact of the strategies.

Key Findings:
We have found that speaking and listening thrives when:

      Class sizes give the teacher greater opportunity to work with individuals and groups.
      Classroom size gives space for greater flexibility of group organisation.
      Focus on training and introducing the process of speaking and listening rather than the
       summative assessment of immediate impact.
      A collegiate approach across the school, allowing time for strategies to be embedded before
       beginning formal assessment.
      Extra resources and further training were provided where gaps in the learning had been
      A Board employs specialists who promote and support the introduction and continuation of
       the new strategies to all of the schools.
      Schools are not data driven and not in competition with each other; but offer support and
       targeted resources.

Dissemination proposals:

The local authority shares experiences gained through TIPD through an annual conference and
through articles in magazines circulated by the Children and Young People‟s Service. The
experiences and outcomes will be very relevant to all phases, but in particular to those
implementing the new Secondary Curriculum. The increase in potential for tailoring the curriculum
to meet individual needs through acceleration, thematic approaches and vertical streaming.

Schools that were represented by our group plan to disseminate findings by:

      Reporting findings to staff, governors and parents associated with the school.
      Modeling good practice.
      Creating a clear action plan that will determine how S&L is integrated into their school. It is
       intended that this will be shared with other schools within the pyramid and beyond.
      Create a handbook of strategies which could be adapted across departments.
      Offering to host visitors wishing to come and see how S&L has been implemented and to
       answer questions and offer advice on how it can be used in other settings.
      Producing a reflective journal as a record of the progress of integrating S&L techniques and
       strategies into their classes.
      Sharing information at appropriate meetings.
      Share informally with other teachers and governors.
      Assemblies and sharing with appropriate teaching groups.

Appendix 1: How is progress in speaking and listening captured?

This area is beginning to be developed because they wanted to spend the first 3-4 yrs getting the speaking
and listening properly established first. Some teachers jot exactly what children say to them down to remind
themselves later on, some use Generating a Discussion sheet but do not always.

Promotion of Literature Circles & Group Skills – (King George School)

Teachers often don‟t record all the information but just keep it in their heads.

Recording in a „discussion book‟ was observed in a Grade 4 class

King George: SAT in oral language sometimes uses Dictaphone to record children‟s speaking & listening to
capture their progress.

Made books to show children‟s progress – record of conversation in small „At risk‟ group then same group 3
months later.
Books are shared with children – key principle – “What they think they can say; What they say can be
written; What they can write can be read.”

Examples of reported progress using an artifact – A pair of mittens;
Farika – It soft
Gino – Mitts for hands
Jamian – They are furry

Three Months Later
Use of longer sentence structures with some prepositions and definite articles

Gino – My dad went in a bush shoot deer. We saw bunch of deer in the bush
Farika – The deer eating the carrot. They are sharing. I think it a counting deer book.

Grids / Tick lists / Grids on wall in staff resource room – Pupil cards moved up. Children clearly labeled in at
risk levels 1&2.

MISA Data Tool – Track progress – Leads to moderation across whole board. No evidence of standardized
oral assessment tasks.

School effectiveness measured by District Review Team – Leads to setting of a whole school target which is
reviewed in 6 weeks. SMART target.

SATs working across schools so continuity of method / approach / assessment.

Line A/B – teacher will record anecdotal of children near end of line & more children as pairs more (EA will
also record)

4 corners – 1 person talking, 3 listening & move around.

Appendix 2: How is speaking and listening used to organise their own thinking?

Mantra: “what I think I can say; what I say I can write; what I write I can read.”

Dedicated talk time to prepare for future work.

Have one shared focus for a period of time.

„Rubrics‟ for levels clearly displayed for children to look at own work and build on.

Encouraged to take risks, then build on feedback and have another go at making their work better.

Lots of „practise‟ before the actual final aim.

Steps for problem solving constantly reinforced.

Reinforce strategies used in earlier year groups.

Encouraged to make predictions and reflect.

Visual and practical and relevant activities

Importance is given to each child‟s experiences – and is valued.

Children involved in developing speaking/listening strategies – what is good / bad practice.

Teacher modelling good listening – e.g. Eric said “------“ exact words. Teacher records children‟s exact
thoughts & children read back. And „Not a Stick‟ teacher scribed children‟s ideas exactly. “A fish riding a

Specific matching up of activity to subject / style of writing – Barrier games / procedural writing, positional

Appendix 3: How are key questions used to promote critical thinking ( links to philosophy)?

Kindergarten – Questions around the artifact
What can you tell me? – With able group led to;
What do you think? – advanced thinking – alternative uses;
Tell me about it? – Language of companion. Extensive vocab.

Different key questions for less able pupils – „How about we get Damien to tell us something?

Style of questioning modelled by SATs, and then developed by class teachers who have grown more
confident. “I‟m totally committed to this now – I only worry near report card time!”

Kindergarten Teacher: “What does a good speaker look like? Show me”
Child: “Communication”
KT: “That‟s a big word – what does it mean?”
Child: “Use eye contact and talk”

Even with very young children – clarifying responses – not accepting general answers.

Take time to visualise.

Questions round picture
Tell me what you see? (Grizzly bear)
Take turns, explain –don‟t question wrong assumptions.
Takes as long as it takes (teacher does not jump in) allows time
Recorded as children said it – no grammatical changes

Appendix 4: What strategies are used to develop speaking and listening skills?

Display table strategy – items from story & explain links – high level questioning, predicting.

Pass a prop (stick) and bring idea to group – led to writing opportunity – creative, own experience.

Close eyes & thinking time

Talking partners – „knee to knee, elbow to elbow, eye to eye.‟

Teacher gives clue for reluctant speakers – not evidence of opportunities to push/extend G&T.

Mystery box
   - teach model questioning
   - choosing right vocab
   - children listen & predicting

   - similar opportunities
   - generate more questions (possibility for higher level)

Barrier Game – “tell me more” “please give me more”
                useful vocab/phrases useful
                INSTRUCTIONAL LANGUAGE specific

Negotiation       - Sequencing photos

Sequencing photo
   - teamwork skills developed during physical activity
   - scaffolded before group work

Sequencing story pictures – negotiation – predicting the story

Group work – maths – ensure all members of group understand – oral explanation
Flexible groups – mixed ability and by ability.

AB lines – listening & answering for partner – asking „B‟ for A‟s idea – MOVEMENT to create different

Response partners

Talking about why we need to listen & why need to talk – DONE AT START OF EACH YEAR Nemo
character of „Dory‟ & Harry Potter

Scaffolding experiences:-
Large photographs / pictures of familiar environments and objects such as bears at the garbage dump –
small group work with EA
   – does not correct children, praises for contributing, ensures all are included and asks what other
       people have said.

Discussion in small group with teacher (Kindergarten) about an artifact from their culture – What could it be
used for? Teacher then wrote down exactly what the child had said. The child then re-read the sentence to
the rest of the group – horseshoe table

Points of view – Role play in parent – coach & teacher – student character roles and explain and justify why
each one would behave they way they did. Share ideas and reasons.

Use of visual media to promote discussion. Breakdown of scenes from a film (Nemo) write or wrong

R      retells the question
                                                 All strategies used at King
A      answer the question
                                                 George – poster on wall
S      support the text
E      expand using connections

Stay on topic, use indoor voice, use appropriate space, take turns, make eye contact, listen, strive for 5 –
(Ask at least 5 questions)

Closing of eyes to think of one thing that worked well

Appendix 5: How is the class organised to support speaking and listening?

Smaller class sizes

Larger space

Kidney shaped tables – guided work

Sound system

More adult support – other teachers who have „free time‟ help in other classes. – TEAM TEACHING in relax

All over the classroom there are prompts for strategies, collaborating developed by teachers + children.
    – Why do we listen? / Why do we talk? / Why do we read?
    – Task management board

Partner work – „Toe to Toe‟

Older classes children moved desks quickly when getting in groups

Children used floor space when working in groups – not always at desks. (Inside / Outside classrooms)

Children trained to S&L

Visual / Kinesthetic strategies to promote S&L

Appendix 6: Are speaking and listening opportunities planned or are they a result of the
direction of the lesson?

Opportunities for planned
AB lines – Post-it notes of questions in books which was shared.
Mystery box
Barrier Games
Guess Who?

Numeracy – checklists used for problem solving & children know their group needs to be able to explain the

Outdoor activity planned for sequencing (photos & building of Quinzee)

Planned probs to enable discussion for story of „not a stick‟. Initial questions and furthered high level
questions asked as a result of children‟s responses.

Children identified for further intervention – phonics activities

Ojibwe (First Nation language) lessons for those that wish to take it. Specialist teachers employed for that.

Artifact from culture to be explored – planned (each ability group in turn with teacher throughout the day)

Group work with large photographs – SATs going into classrooms. (kindergarten At Risk & Next group)

Planned & unplanned opportunities for Elbow work.