Tuesdays are Slice of Life day hosted by the writing community at Two Writing Teachers. Everyone is welcome to join in!
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the read aloud work that our Staff Developer, Christine Holley, did for some of our first and second-grade teachers. I wrote in that post that I would share more about the "Grand Conversations" that followed a read aloud in a later post, and here it is.
After reading her book, and it could be any picture book, or even a chapter book for older students, Christine had the first-grade students sit in a circle. Because they did not have much practice with having a full-class conversation about a book, at first she encouraged them to raise hands, but after a few minutes, as they got going, she made a BIG deal out of telling them that they could try not raising hands. "Just talk to each other," she said. "Try it out."
When several students were talking at the same time (yes, that happened...), she stopped the class. "What are we going to do if four people want to talk at the same time?" she asked. One of the students suggested that they decide who would talk first, and then the others would automatically get to go next. The other students nodded in agreement.
While the initial conversation was mostly around retells, Christine prodded the students with questions that required some deeper reflection. More importantly, she taught students some prodding lines that they could use to keep the conversation going, such as:
- Why do you think that?
- Can you say more about that?
- What do you think?
Within five minutes, the students were engaged in a conversation and Christine sat back from the circle as they analyzed why Leonardo did not want to be a monster any more in Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems.
I loved that Christine invited students to participate, but did not pressure them. At one point, she interrupted the conversation and said, "If you haven't spoken, then you can go ahead and start us off," after she gave the class an open-ended question about the book. This question made many students reflect, thinking in a seven year-old way about whether they were talking too much or too little. When she ended the whole class conversation, she finished with, "If you didn't speak in today's conversation, that's okay because there will be lots of other chances to do it."
I really do hope that there will be lots more chances for students to engage in this speaking and listening work! It was so powerful to watch them get the hang of participating in a meaningful conversation.
Happy reading, speaking and listening! (As well as writing!)