Just the Facts
Just the Facts asks one to two students to summarize quickly the reading that will be used in the day's discussion. We follow a simple protocol of "Who + What"--citing which characters from the text did what significant actions in order to move the plot forward. When the initial student is finished sharing key facts from the reading, another student might be asked to fill in any other details. If there are plot details that are incorrect, it is an opportunity for other students to correct the errors. These "police report" type of summaries can be audio or video recorded, quickly edited, and then posted on to the class website as a more engaging way for students to review significant plot points from our class texts. Although there is an ideal reading pace at which I want students to move, some will be ahead of the reading calendar and some will be behind. Also, many students are anxious or reluctant to share out loud when it comes to analysis of the reading. Given that the Just the Facts reports the text's plot and simply the facts, more students are enthusiastic about sharing because the strategy allows different students to be the experts in relaying facts.
Socratic Seminars are one method for discussing complex texts, and they are also useful forums where students can metacognate about their learning process and even share best practices.
As with the Warm-up activity that gets the brain going at the beginning of class, my students end class with an activity that lets them feel closure with the lesson and their work for that day. The activity is almost always an online reflective journal or survey, and the purpose is to have an impact on and inform my planning for the next class. Sometimes we end the period with a whole-class conversation instead, especially after a Socratic Seminar day, because we use the conversation to debrief and think metacognitively about our discussion process as a whole group. Students should develop metacognition skills as a way of understanding how they learn. The debrief looks at the learning process for the day and is that opportunity for me to point out how different students learned well because they have certain strategies they used effectively. In this way, more students can benefit from that reflection. Literacy development requires so many strategies that operate differently given the text. When my students can benefit from understanding how they each learn, a strong sense of community and collaboration develops.
A Moral Reasoning Conversation is a student grouping and discourse strategy that involves heterogeneous groups of 4-5 students holding table discussions about their responses to provocative questions that frame, go deeper with, or reflect on the day's lesson. This is an especially effective strategy to use when we are engaging with complex themes in the literature we are reading as a class. The purpose of Moral Reasoning Conversations is for my students to prepare the thoughts that they will introduce in a subsequent whole-class discussion or a more formal Socratic Seminar. The students are given a situation that asks them to use their individual moral compasses to determine how they would behave in a complex ethical context. They discuss these moral dilemmas with peers in their table groups. At key moments during the discussion, I introduce "wrenches" that add layers of complexity to the dilemmas and push students towards deeper critical thinking and consideration of multiple perspectives. I consider carefully how much detail to present regarding each initial moral dilemma, so that my students have the opportunity to develop their own "wrenches" for the Moral Reasoning Conversation.