Speaking to Share

Speaking and listening support for students is essential – the skills support all of the other work kids need to do when they are reading and writing. But most people have a fear of public speaking, including teachers, so we can forget to scaffold the skills with smaller tasks.

A great way to use to give students practice speaking in class is to let them read aloud a short selection of their reading for class. If the expectation while they read is to mark the text, then marking something they loved – a turn of phrase, a descriptive detail, imagery, etc. – can easily be shared. As a teacher, you are then assessing reading while assessing speaking.

Once the passage is chosen, have students whisper read to themselves, or read with a partner. Practice reading out loud in different ways helps avoid embarrassing mispronunciations or other issues that would reinforce public speaking as a scary experience. Practicing also helps student read more fluently over time, demonstrating to them the need to practice in order to improve.

I often have students record themselves since I had a BYOD policy in effect. That way they can troubleshoot their own voice performance through an audio recording, or record with video in order to critique themselves or critique with a partner.

Finally, have students read their passage to the class! You can create a specific list so they know when their turn is or you can have them “popcorn” read so they can jump in. More than one student can have the same favorite passage and passages can be read in any order.

This activity is great because it’s informal but gives students exposure to reading and public speaking. There are lots of ways to extend it as well: FlipGrid readings, writing a rationale for the selection, found poems from the passage, pastiche, etc.

Leading the way for students

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve needed to write about my leadership experiences – I always list Every 15 Minutes as the one I am most proud of. As leaders (and all teachers are leaders) we lead our students by example.

In August of 2013 two high school students, Brooke McPheters and Jordyn Durr, were struck and killed by a drunk driver while walking home on a sidewalk from the mall. I didn’t know either of them, though I knew kids who did and teachers who knew them well in classes at South and Service. Too often as teachers we are used to tragedy but there was something about them, these two girls, that made me want to do something more.

They were killed right by where I used to work when I first moved to Anchorage. They were killed on a sidewalk I biked or walked on several times a day for months as I commuted to my job teaching preschool. I felt at some level like I could relate to them – I found out that many kids I knew well did relate to Brooke and Jordyn, either through friendship or experience.

So, I recruited students to co-lead the program with me and we were able to pull off an event that was effective and true to the origins of the national program while showcasing the talents of South’s new video production class. I am so proud of the work Shelby, Amanda, Jordan, and John did as student leaders and how our student body received that work. I’m thrilled with how we coordinated with police and fire (it’s hard!) and the video class. I’m relieved still that my colleagues and administration supported our efforts and guided us when necessary. But mostly I am proud that we stepped up and actually did some small thing to try to prevent an accident like that from occurring again. 

When I read the comments adults make on the work and efforts of protestors, teenagers who are not too different from the kids I’ve always taught, I feel sick. These teenagers have the ability to change the world, as generations before them have had. I hope that all of us educators who have helped lead small changes recognize that how and why we have taught and led students has made the world a better place and has helped show our students how to do the same.

Satirical videos

For the last few years in Digital Composition, a senior English elective, we have been making satire videos. The course covers rhetorical modes of composition in alternative ways, integrating technology in creative and thoughtful ways as compared to traditional English classes.

Students work on the films over the course of a semester and are asked to satirize some aspect of our high school community. By this point in their education there is much for them to poke fun at about the school. Embedded below are some of my favorites from the last few years. Because this is an English class, we have never had a budget for technology – students film on their iPhones or other personal devices and edit their videos using whatever software they have available to them.

The assignment is intended as more of a storytelling exercise than an assessment of technological or video prowess. Students do have access to a publication from the Director’s Guild of America, Making Movies: A Guide for Young Filmmakers.


A screencast is a video made of the activity on your computer screen for the purpose of  demonstration or communication.

How can you use screencasts in your classroom?

  • How to videos
    • Show a process or series of actions and are often easier to follow than written instructions.
    • Show students your own thought processes as your read and mark-up a text
    • Show how to determine if a website or article is a quality source
  • Student feedback
    • You can use a screencast as a way of commenting on an electronically submitted student paper, highlighting and adding notations on your screen at the same time. (saving paper too!)

Are there more possibilities?

There are a lot of creative ways to use screencasting software to teach and engage students and parents. I especially like the Get Inspired! web page on Tech Smith’s website.

Screencasting Tools

Jing (free, small download) http://www.techsmith.com/jing/

SnagIt (record your screen and yourself!) http://www.techsmith.com/snagit-customer-stories.html

Camtasia (can be expensive, but is very detailed) http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia/

Screencast-o-matic (free, no download) http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/

Adobe Captivate (high cost, very detailed) http://www.adobe.com/products/captivate.html

Screenr (free! really easy to use as an online tool) http://www.screenr.com/


Hosting videos

Screencast.com http://www.techsmith.com/screencastcom.html

Screenr http://www.screenr.com/




Videos I have made

Screenr http://www.screenr.com/user/LarissaWE

Jing – a video I made for my master’s portfolio http://screencast.com/t/A4x9sjQ8dLZ3

A few great presentations

Walden podcasts

Teaching English

American Literature students created responses to Walden in 2007 and 2008.

Students chose a theme to illuminate and then two quotes from Walden that illustrated their theme.

Title: False Reality

Quote: Do you live in a false reality? Yes. So maybe you should listen to this. Unless you’re too “cool”. Which you aren’t, you just think you are becuase you are living in a false reality. Ha! So listen and learn about your own false reality.

Student examples can be found on my website. https://sites.google.com/site/larissawrightelson/classes/american-literature/podcasts

Walden assignment seminar

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