Getting students to talk more seems like a very simple task. Students talk all the time, right?! Sometimes, it’s hard to get them to stop talking! The question is: are students using social language or academic language? Our goal should be to increase academic talk in our classrooms, while encouraging students to continue to develop their social language. Seems easy right? Not always true, as I have discovered in my teaching experiences.
Here is an example of a lesson that I learned a lot from:
Interaction is a key component of SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Promotional). We often say we want students to talk more and teachers to talk less. However, before we can expect students to interact and use academic language, we first need to teach them the procedures and routines to do so. The error I made was I wanted students to use the academic language, but I had not taught them how to do so in the Turn and Talk.
So, here are some eight steps to help you not make the same mistake by instead creating an environment that teaches students how to build the skills needed to interact with one another and to use academic language (Echevarría and Short).
| 1 |
Teach students how to listen to each other.
If we want students to talk, we need to teach them also how to listen. What does listening to each other look like? Model for students what active listening looks like. Have students practice listening skills using social conversations first (i.e. tell each other about their favorite TV show) and then move into more content-rich conversations.
| 2 |
Teach students how to respectfully speak to one another.
What types of respectful words or phrases do you hear (I agree with you because…, I don't know that I can agree with you, and here's why...)? Provide sentence frames and model how to use them. Hang them up or write them on the board for students as a reference or to keep in a journal.
| 3 |
Align the conversation to lesson objectives.
Make sure students know the goal of the lesson. That way they know if their academic conversations are on-topic or on-target. If they are not on-topic, remind them of the target or objective to help get them back on track.
| 4 |
Pose questions that prompt high-quality discussions.
If you want students to increase their academic language, then make sure questions lend themselves to higher-order thinking skills. Questions should make students think, clarify, predict, or explain. A question such as “Tell your partner one fact about the Gettysburg Address” could be changed to “What do you think the reaction of the crowd was after President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and why would he have reacted that way?”
| 5 |
Teach students to ask questions or expand their thinking.
Students often need to be taught how to keep a conversation going. Put question and sentence frames around the room that expand discussions, such as Tell me more about …, Why do you think… I heard you say…, That made me think of …, Do you think that …, or That idea connects to the story by …. These frames allow students to build on each other’s thoughts and create engaging conversations.
| 6 |
Link oral discussion to reading and writing.
Academic speaking and listening are deeply tied to reading and writing. Student discussions that are linked to text bring forth deeper academic discussions.
| 7 |
Set reasonable time limits.
Think about how long it will take students to talk to each other. Don’t let a turn and talk that lasts 1-2 minutes turn into 10 minutes. This creates wasted academic time and often leads to off-task behavior.
| 8 |
Hold students accountable for their talk.
Let students know that you are listening to them. Walk around and listen to what they are saying. Have a clipboard and write down what students say. Them, when the class is brought back together, talk about the great conversations you heard. Provide examples and discuss why these conversations were so powerful. This will motivate students moving forward because they know you are listening and sharing out their examples and ideas.
Consider using all of these eight steps to take your classroom conversations to the next level. I know they certainly helped my students.
If you would like to study these ideas future, consider reading the article "Student Interaction Gone Awry" by Jana Echevarría, and/or watching the Teaching Channel video "Talk Moves in Academic Discussions". Both provide great ideas on how to help students interact.
And, of course, feel free to connect with me directly. I would love to help you increase the academic talk in your classroom.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
If I had a nickel for every time a student came up to me after a test, the last week of the quarter, or even after report cards were released and asked “What can I do to raise my grade?” I might have been able to retire before I hit the age of 30. At the time it was easy for me to blame each of these conversations on point grubbing or students who didn’t prepare well enough the first time, but the fact of the matter is that I had created a game for them and they were simply playing by my rules. I realize now that the grading system I used in the classroom was a simple translation of the system I had experienced as a student and as a student teacher. In fact, perhaps like many of you, my very first grade book was primarily set up by my mentor teacher, with very little input from me. I didn’t know any better and there were far more important things, in my mind, to worry about than my gradebook. If I had only taken a moment to ask myself a few simple questions I might have avoided utilizing the following counterproductive and/or destructive grading practices:
So what questions would I pose to my first-year-teacher self? There are four of them—simple in nature, but can be very difficult to answer:
These are the four questions that were posed to the Secondary Grading Committee when they created the Purpose and Beliefs document related to grading, as shown below:
I encourage all RPS teachers to review this document and ask yourself these four simple questions.
In subsequent blog posts, I will be sharing some tips and tricks within some of these key grading and reporting areas. In the meantime, I encourage you to talk about grading and reporting with your colleagues and, if you don’t mind a good dose of passion, contact me and I'll join the conversation!
This post brought to you by Brandon Macrafic, POSA focusing on Career & College Readiness and administrator at CTECH
It is that time of year when many of our students are starting to be ready for even bigger cognitive challenges—some are even craving them. At the same time, it's also that time of year when teachers are ready for Spring Break (or is that just me?), and thereby are struggling with their own zapped energy and their stacks of end-of-quarter grading. One teaching strategy that helps address both of these universal truths is that of the Fishbowl Discussion (sometimes referred to as a Socratic Seminar)—this strategy creates opportunities for students to think deeply, while simultaneously relying on student energy (not teacher energy) and remaining simple in its feedback possibilities.
Shared here are the basics of Fishbowl Discussions, combined with many of the alterations I have had the pleasure of observing district-wide.
Green = ‘Contributor+’ comments (give students a majority of these pieces)
Red = ‘Contributor’ comments
Yellow = ‘Supporter/Peacekeeper/Gatekeeper’ comments (give students 1-2 of these)
* Put a blanket down in the center of the circle to keep the disks from bouncing/making noise--
it also makes clean-up easier
** When coding by color/suit, the first few times students try it you may want to hold up the color coinciding with each comment made so they develop an understanding of differences
- Co-piloting: Create copilots where each outer circle person silently assists an inner circle person by writing a possible question/point/quote on a note card/ sticky note and passing to their assigned person in the ‘Bowl’—in most cases there may be two students assigned to each inner-circle participant
- Tapping-In: Create partnerships of 2-3 students. ‘Partner A’ begins in the inner circle—after she’s made at least 2 comments but no more than 5 comments ‘Partner B/C’ taps and takes her place: this rotation continues until the conversation is over (a variation of this is shown in the above two videos)
- Feedback Providers: Have students in the outer circle provide feedback to those in the inner circle. Two common methods:
- Give students the same tally sheet that the teacher might use and have them tally during the discussion: this often provides a great conversation starter, as many students will not have the same results and you can discuss the subjectivity and difficulty of scoring a discussion
- Have students analyze only one inner circle student. Provide the observers with a few areas to focus on and/or questions to answer, and then after the discussion is over he/she gives feedback to the speaker he/she observed (consider pairing stronger discussants with weaker discussants)
- Back-Channeling: Set outside participants up with a “back channel”—a digital conversation that runs concurrently with the face-to-face activity—that they can use to silently discuss the topic-at-hand while the inner circle discusses aloud...just be sure to set up parameters ahead of time.* (Should you wish to try this strategy, don't let the logistics be your stumbling block--reach out to one of our Instructional Technologists. )
Some common back-channels are:
* It’s often a good idea for the teacher to be one of the active participants in these discussions
You can see in this short Fishbowl Sample video that teacher Matt Baier has his students using a Back Channel .
Ideas for Providing Feedback
Inner Circle Feedback
- Teacher Checklist: Have a teacher checklist where the teacher tallies each student’s contributions by noting what type of contribution he/she is making.**
- Video Reflection: Videotape the discussion and then share it with students. Then, have each student analyze his/her own contributions to the discussion. (Students can use the same categories as on the teacher checklist and/or a simple 3-2-1 reflection.)**
- A Quick-Write: Ask students one question pertaining to each inner circle over-arching topic/problem and/or text—have them draft a short paragraph answering each question.
Outer & Inner Circle Feedback
- Personal Metacognition: Have students complete a quick questionnaire or 3-2-1 reflection after they complete their Fishbowl discussion.
- Co-teaching: This coaching model consists of co-planning and teaching together. The teacher chooses a focus that they want to work on. This might be improving academic dialogue in their classroom. They work together with the coach to plan and deliver a lesson or series of lessons together and then reflect on what worked and what they might refine. This can be done in a single class period or over a longer period of time (a week or two).
- Co-Planning: In this coaching method, the teacher and coach plan a series of lessons together focusing on an area that a teacher has determined they want to work on.
- You Pick Two: A teacher selects two students who they are having trouble reaching. This might be students who need additional challenge, who they are having trouble connecting with, or students who need additional support in learning. The coach observes the students and helps the teacher plan additional supports for these students.
- Observe a Colleague: This coaching model involves observation of a colleague who may teach the same thing as you or use the same method of teaching as you do. The coach can cover your class while you observe the other class. Afterwards, the coach and teacher may have a conversation about what they noticed that they want to implement. In another variation of this model, the coach and teacher observe together and then compare notes about what they noticed.
- Coaching Conversation: The teacher selects an area that they want to focus on through a pre-conference conversation. They ask the coach to collect data on this focus area. This may be through video, notes from the classroom, or other methods that the team decides. The coach observes and then shares the feedback with the teacher. They have a reflective conversation about the data and determine next steps that may include both the coach and teacher.
The April 2016 edition of Educational Leadership offers several articles, perspectives, and strategies to enhance reviewing student work for increased student achievement. These strategies sometimes involve more time in class for feedback, but saves the teacher grading time outside of class.
- “The only important thing about feedback is what students do with it,” (Dylan Wiliam, page 10).
- “A few well-designed questions are better than many superficial ones” (Kroog, Hess, Ruiz-Primo, page 22).
- “Showing students other students’ work, critiquing it, and trying to make improvements is powerful because it is a way that most people learn” (Rob Traver, page 68).
- “As they approach a new unit, students should focus on what they’re going to learn. We want students to think about how they will be different after doing this project" (Guskey and McTighe, page 38).
- “If students aren’t skilled in listening, they won’t benefit from feedback” (Hattie, Fisher, Frey, page 16).
- “Grading is more of a challenge of effective communication than a simple documentation of achievement” (Guskey and Jung, page 50).
- “Learning progressions based on decades of research on how students learn can help teachers take a more fruitful look at student work” (Kobrin and Panorkou, page 32).
All ideas pulled from: The April 2016 issue of Educational Leadership, “Looking at Student Work,” (Volume 73, Issue 7).
The other recording option available to most one-to-one classrooms is the iPad. It is functionally the same as a video camera, though it has a small amount of video editing that can be done with iMovie, as well.
PlayPosit, formerly called Educanon, allows for certain interactive components to be added to videos. They need to first be hosted on Youtube or Vimeo, but then can be imported to PlayPosit to add pauses, multiple choice questions, etc.
Now that the videos have a home, they can be used in a variety of ways. Perhaps the most discussed use for videos at the moment is in a “flipped classroom.”
Though the flipped classroom video talks about “Learning Management Systems” briefly, there could be an entire video series on the uses of Moodle, Google Class, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, and others. Most of these “Learning Management Systems” (LMS) allow the use of videos in response to students’ answers on certain assessments. This can create differentiated responses to students, which is particularly useful for re-teaching difficult concepts.
Though using an LMS to re-teach is a form of feedback, videos can be used to create more specific feedback. This comes in two main forms: recording a teacher verbally giving feedback to an assignment that is on the screen or using a pre-recorded video to expand on common feedback to students.
The last common use for videos is for communication. It is common to use videos to post announcements in “Learning Management Systems” and not unusual to send a welcome video or other notes to students, families, or communities via e-mail. Another tool will be briefly touched on in this video, and that is the use of the “mail merge,” which can use collected data, such as that found in a gradebook, to send different videos and messages to different students or families.
To wrap things up, the final video in the series will cover some general tips and best practices for video creation. Enjoy!
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