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Simple Rubrics for Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards

By Dave Stuart Jr.

One search term that seems to regularly bring folks to the Teaching the Core blog is “speaking and listening rubrics for Common Core State Standards.” Up to this point, those good-hearted yet unfortunate rube-seekers haven't found what they were looking for here.

In the words of William Wallace's Uncle Argyle, “That is something we shall have to remedy, isn't it?”

Uncle Argyle's accent rocks.

Not too sexy

While my speaking and listening rubrics for the CCSS aren't going to win me a gold star in an Ed Theory class, they do effectively tell me whether my students have it, are on the way to getting it, or are showing no evidence of getting it. In other words, they may not be sexy, but they work.

For any graded debate or discussion, I give the students one skill from the Speaking and Listening standards that I want them to focus on. I deliver this to them in the form of a statement (see the image below) or question (see the list later in this post), and I post that on the board or in the day's slideshow.

I tell students that I want to see all of the skills on the slide, but the one with the arrow is what I'll be grading for.

I tell students that I want to see all of the skills on the slide, but the one with the arrow is what I'll be grading for. Notice the sentence starters provided beneath the skill.

Before the debate or discussion begins, I explain the move to students, but, way more importantly, I model it for them as well, usually with a different topic from what they're going to speak about. To help illustrate why and how they're working on this move, I also connect the Speaking and Listening move to moves I want them to make in their writing. Speaking and Listening tasks are awesome avenues into better writing and reading.

To scaffold the moves, I often include a sentence starter or two on the board (energetic nod to Graff and Birkenstein). These enable students to frame their ideas within effective language. I always remind students that their responses need not be limited to these templates.

Finally, I explain how they will be graded: I simply start a new column on my class roster and give students a check (they got it), check minus (they attempted but aren't quite there yet), or zero (they totally missed it or did not participate).

Rubric questions for the Speaking and Listening standards

Remember, my students are freshmen, and to make these rubric questions specific to them, I use the 9-10 grade-specific Speaking and Listening standards. Similar work can be quickly done for other grade levels.

  • Do you refer to evidence from the text under discussion and/or other research pertaining to the subject? (SL.9-10.1a)
    • According to ______, ________. In other words, ________
  • Do you propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas? (SL.9-10.1c)
    • In response to _____'s question, ______.
    • _____'s comment about _____ points to the larger issue of _______.
  • Do you actively incorporate others into the discussion? (SL.9-10.1c)
    • ______, I'm curious what you have to say on this matter, given your previous statement about ________.
    • ________ was wise to point out _________; to add to it, I would argue _______.
  • Do you clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions? (SL.9-10.1c)
    • ________, I heard you say ________. Am I getting that right?
    • _________, is it fair to summarize your point by saying ______?
    • ________ said ______, and I would challenge that conclusion with this: ________.
  • Do you summarize points of agreement and/or disagreement? (SL.9-10.1d)
    • _________ and _______ seem to agree on _________. However, they disagree on __________.
  • Do you qualify or justify your own views and/or make new connections in light of evidence and reasoning presented by others? (SL.9-10.1d)
    • As you all know, I previously said ________. However, I would like to justify what I said in light of _____'s evidence.
  • Are you able to detect fallacious reasoning or exaggerated/distorted evidence? (SL.9-10.3)
    • (This one is best explored and modeled with mentor texts or pre-recorded debates.)
  • Do you present your ______ (point, information, finding, supporting evidence) clearly, concisely, and logically? (SL.9-10.4)
    • Requiring students to use transitions is key for increasing clarity and logic.
    • To help them think about clarity, concision, and logic, try showing them videos of themselves or their peers speaking.
  • Are you able to show your command of formal English? (SL.9-10.6)

My goal with grading Speaking and Listening standards is to give students feedback that is immediate (I'm done grading them by the time they sit down), focused (hence giving them one skill per speaking task), and, ultimately, helpful to them. At the end of the day, my students are the ones that will live with their speaking and listening abilities — not me.

Frequently asked questions

Here, students rock out some debate over whether Odyssey was a hero or a villain.

Here, students rock out some debate over whether Odysseus was a hero or a villain.

Do you grade every speaking/listening task your students do?

  • I don't grade every debate and discussion that we have, and I don't always require every student to participate. However, a majority of the time these tasks are graded and mandatory because I want to give students feedback and I want them to grow.

Do you require all students to participate, even if it makes them uncomfortable to do so?

  • I do require every student to participate in any graded speaking/listening task. Surprisingly, even though I have had students who are literally brought to tears at the pressure of speaking in front of their peers, I always see these students grow by the midpoint in the school year, and this growth is both in their skill and in their confidence. Just this past week, I had a student tell me about how she spoke up at a community event one evening, and that she did so because of the confidence she has gained in my class. For the first two months of school, I couldn't get this kid to speak loud enough to be heard a few feet away.
  • If you come to my room, you will see students who tend to enjoy being there and tend to feel loved. Mandatory participation (even for shy kids) is possible in my room because I strive to build community from Day 1, and because my students know that I am an equal opportunity comfort zone destroyer. I also share with them about how I was super shy in high school, and how that shyness has only been harder to overcome as an adult.

What classes do you do this in?

  • Even though the Speaking and Listening standard is technically only for ELA classes, my students and I probably tend to do just as much Speaking and Listening work in my World History classes as in my Freshman Comp/Lit classes. To me, social studies classes seem like they should be filled with chances to discuss and debate.

Doesn't focusing on one skill per speaking/listening event create really boring discussions and debates?

  • Not at all. Though I do grade for certain moves, I encourage students to be much more sophisticated than the skill on the board. To promote creative contributions, I often stop and praise great student moves, and there's at least one time per event where I'm practically beside myself with glee at a brilliant contribution (granted, I sometimes need to force this display early on in the year; my goal is to show students how exciting and entertaining debates and discussions can be).

Do you have printable rubrics?

  • Since I grade a single skill per speaking/listening event, I rarely print out a rubric. If anything, I sometimes use slips of scrap paper when I want to give students written feedback.

How do you allow for student choice in your speaking/listening events?

  • Even though students don't get to pick the skill they are graded on, I try to allow student choice in some way, be it when they speak, what side they speak for, or who they speak with.

What types of debate structures do you use?

  • I use a variety of different debate structures, and I'll be writing about those in a later post.

If you have more questions, let me know in the comments!

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13 Responses to Simple Rubrics for Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards

  1. Janet January 17, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    This is great and I really enjoy your “jacked up” blog. I want to use this strategy to explore poetry in my middle school students! Very helpful information.

    • davestuartjr January 17, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

      Haha, thanks Janet — I’m happy to have another person with a good sense of humor along for the ride 🙂

  2. Mary Clark January 30, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Equal opportunity comfort zone destroyer! I love it! But I’m guessing you also make your classroom a comfortable place for a student to go beyond her comfort zone, too. I’ll be sharing this with the teachers at my school who foolishly haven’t added your blog to their regular reading.

    • davestuartjr January 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

      Mary, you are the bomb-diggety. Thank you so much for your generous praise! I’m glad the blog is useful to someone 🙂

  3. Kathy Nolan March 16, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    Wow! I love your ideas and so appreciate the video. Your depth of knowledge and willingness to share will make the core accessible to everyone who chooses to grow into it with effective practices and student achievement.

    • davestuartjr March 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

      Kathy, thank you for the generous praise! The highest aspirations I have for this blog is that it would be useful and encouraging to the masters in classrooms around the country.

  4. Theresa Chavez May 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    Thank you thank you! I am personally most concernned about text complexity scoring and the fact that it seems I will be doing this independently. Can we say margin of error? Yikes. Anyone got a Common Core Text Complexity list? Please. The pig and me are text complexity.

    • davestuartjr May 1, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

      Hi Theresa,

      Thanks for the thanks 🙂 Text complexity scoring does seem pretty complicated (er, complex, I guess). I’ve heard that publishers are unsurprisingly developing their own text complexity calculators. From Tom Newkirk: “Pearson, for example, is marketing a Reading Maturity Metric that is supposedly 30 percent more accurate than current readability formulas.” I understand that all of this variation will create a margin of error, but honestly, I think the best way to avoid that is to work with horizontal and vertical teams to determine what texts we want students engaging with in our schools.

      But if anyone has a list (besides Apendix C of the Common Core), please do share!

      Also, nice pig metaphor 🙂

  5. Mike September 7, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    I sincerely dig your writing style, your ideas, everything on here! I’m planning to use your poster idea and to look for one skill at a time. I was wondering: during any given activity, do you usually assess the same skill for everyone, or do you tailor to each student? If so, is that a logistically confusing thing for them or have you found it to be pretty clear? Btdubbs, I will be coming back to your blog REGULARLY. Thanks for the creativity and the passion, which are both obvious.

    • davestuartjr September 10, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

      Mike, I sincerely dig your kind words! Seriously, so life-giving — thank you, Mike. I know my style doesn’t work for everyone, but I love hearing when it does work for someone.

      To answer your question, I do use the same skill for all students in any given activity, exactly because of the logistical issue you mention. I’m a KISS principle kind of guy. And really, I see almost no downside to using the same rubric for every kid for a given activity, and the upside is that I get to avoid going insane.

      Dude, please keep in touch — I love your energy and positivity.

  6. Jasmin June 28, 2016 at 1:04 am #

    Help, on the speaking and listening rubric you say you add another column but I am unsure as to what you mean?

  7. Abena February 16, 2017 at 7:39 am #

    Thanks for this. You really helped me work out a rubric for our department with your breaking down of the standards. I wonder if you have any more sample slides to share for inspiration? Once again, thanks for your sharing.

    • davestuartjr February 16, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

      Abena, my pleasure! I unfortunately don’t have anything other than in this post :/ But thank you for reaching out!

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