Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Strategy for Teaching Students to Listen to Each Other

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We are extremely fortunate in our district because we get to have Teachers College Staff Developers come to out schools several times a year. Emily Smith, @EmilyJBSmith, joked with me yesterday, as I was taking fast and furious notes during one of our sessions with her.

 "Are you going to tweet that out?" she asked.

"I just might," I answered.

I haven't tweeted any of her quotes (yet), as I got involved with the #twtblog chat last night, but I am going to write about a couple of my favorite lines of the day. I have recently written about the importance of listening, so I loved her statement:
As I watch kids in a conversation, it's like they are having a competition and not a conversation.
How true is this for not only kids, but also adults! How often do we actually nurture and grow ideas, as opposed to just wait to say what we have already decided to say!

Emily's suggestion was to teach students to:
Ask your idea in terms of a question and you will end up in more of a conversation.
I can't wait to try this. Instead of saying "Henry Hudson was a more peaceful explorer than most of the Spanish and Italian explorers," try saying "How was Henry Hudson a more peaceful explorer that most of the Spanish and Italian explorer?" Instead of saying "Mercy Watson was a seriously greedy pig," say "In what ways was Mercy Watson a greedy pig?"

Creating atmospheres where students learn to grow knowledge is so important. I'm looking forward to using this technique to help students learn to listen to each other and see their classmates as resources to push their thinking and deepen their understandings throughout the curriculum and beyond.

Happy slicing,


  1. I love it when you have a staff developer come visit your school because then I get to learn nuggets too. Anything that helps kids develop conversation is helpful.

  2. Love this!!! Hope are going to NCTE --let us know if you are -- we would love to meet up!
    Clare and Tammy

  3. So true they are so busy saying what they want to say. they don't hear. So smart to teach kids to try using a question format. I think I need to try this on for size too. Maybe this happens because we have so many ideas just bursting out or maybe because we are afraid we'll lose it if we don't say it. Whatever the reason, this is a problem! Thank you so much for sharing!

    I so hope you will be at NCTE. Loved seeing your tweets last night!

  4. Such a smart and simple strategy! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Asking for thinking is a good strategy, Melanie, instead of just the 'telling'. Thanks for this.

  6. "Ask your idea in terms of a question and you will end up in more of a conversation." We always get our kids thinking deeper when we invite that thinking. So wise.
    And...I hope you will be at NCTE, Melanie!