Thursday, March 8, 2012

Power of Whole Class Conversations in Read Aloud

A ritual in our classroom is to have a whole class conversation after every read aloud whether it is a picture book or chapter book.  These whole class conversations are powerful in so many ways!  The night before our whole class conversation, the students’ homework is to either write a “Last Impression” response (explains the impression and impact the book had on them as a person) or they put asterisks next to key ideas they want to focus the whole class conversation on.  This not only requires students to synthesize the text, but also to analyze their ideas and reflect upon which ideas will spark the deepest conversation with their classmates.  

During the whole class conversation, students sit in a circle with their notebooks and decide as a class what the top 4 or 5 ideas are that they would like to focus the conversation on.  Then we combine the ideas into one or two overarching ideas and begin the conversation focusing on those ideas. 

This is a “real” conversation where students take turns sharing their thinking, building onto their classmates’ ideas, and deepen their thinking to higher levels.  One student starts the conversation and then students continue to build onto the idea without raising their hands (yes, you definitely need to do a lot of modeling on this or it could turn into a nightmare of students talking over one another!). 

As the students are talking, I transcribe what they are saying using a wireless keyboard to display the whole conversation transcript on the Smart Board for students to see, with their names! :)  This helps model how to synthesize and build upon ideas to extend thinking.  Once one idea is talked out, I prompt them with, “So far, we have talked about ….now I’m going to push your thinking even higher and I’d like you to think about….”  I have students turn and talk first to begin thinking in the direction I am pushing their thinking and then another student begins the second bend of the conversation. 


Having whole class conversations really help improve partnership and book club conversations so they are completely worth the time!  They also foster critical thinking as well as provide opportunities for our students to be reflective learners and build a sense of community. 

Happy Reading and Talking! :)

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