It seems rather obvious, but we must speak slowly if we want to build communities in our classroom. How can we build community when our students don’t understand us because we are speaking too quickly? The numbers below are from an article in the The Wichita Eagle from 2008.
Studies give slightly varying rates, but the conclusion is the same: adults speak too rapidly for children – even high school students – to understand fully. And this is in the native language.
The average adult speaks at about 170+ words per minute with many adults speaking faster than 200 words per minute in conversation or when feeling hurried. Oral reading speed is slightly slower, but not much.
The average 5-7 year old understands at about 120 words per minute in his native language. Even high school students average about 140 words per minute in comprehension. That’s still only about 75% of what is being said. Imagine trying to understand a new math concept when you can comprehend only 75% of what is being said in your native language. The problem compounds for second language learners as well as foreign language learners.
Mr. Rogers was loved by children in part because they could understand everything that he said: he spoke at about 124 words per minute.
If all of this is true for students in their native language, imagine how much more difficult it is for students in a foreign or second language. When we learn to speak SLOWLY enough, our students can understand; they feel secure. Add to that an accepting and supportive attitude on the part of the teacher, and you have a combination that the student almost never encounters in the school setting. What a difference that can make in a student’s day, year, life.
Hmmm, maybe all teachers should spend some time in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.