Monday, October 27, 2014

Literal Conversations with Fourth Graders

I've been trying to get my Fourth Graders to have more conversations. No, not that kind. They definitely have NO trouble talking to each other.

I'm talking about more in-depth conversations where they take what another person has said and respond to it in a positive manner. Sitting in a group, taking turns, using good eye contact. All of that good stuff. This kind of skill can only help them with college work later on in life.

I started by posting some Sentence Stems around the room such as "I agree with ____ because," "I disagree with _______ because," "I see your point, but," "I can piggyback off of _________." I refer to them heavily as I model responses to what they say. When they get ready to respond to me I remind them to think about using some of these stems.

Next we created an anchor chart that brought out even more stems to use with each other. Plus I added in some reminders on good conversation behaviors. Here's what we came up with:

Then, through some staff development I learned some new techniques to help them move into writing their responses and then responding to someone else written response. I started using this 'Literal Conversation' sheet with my whole class as we read an integral part in Sign of the Beaver.

Students write down their own response then pass it to a partner. Partner has to read it and respond with either agreeing or disagreeing and adding their own take on it. Then they pass it back to the owner who reads and responds as well. They loved it!

Next I'll be trying something called a Discussion Roundtable with a group of four students where they respond to a posed question. Taking turns they each read out their response as their team members are taking notes on what they said. After all this, they take all the information they heard and write a summary of their final response.

After nine weeks of this stuff, I have witnessed them using the vocabulary and techniques on their own without any prompting. Does an old teacher's heart good!
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