Of Course We Discourse!

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SWBAT: use discussion to achieve understanding text.

Big Idea

Getting kids comfortable talking to each other is a lot of work, but it will pay off in the end!

Guiding Question

5 minutes

With the Guiding Question, the outcome I wanted was for my students to get to the point of understanding that discourse helps our understanding of concepts and texts. It's important that I'm asking them not only for their understanding of how a discussion can help, but I follow it up with a question about a time when they were involved in a discussion that led to a deeper understanding.

Of course, they aren't going to learn all that from the Guiding Question, but it's the jump-start of the lesson. I want their thinking to begin moving in that direction, which is the purpose of the Guiding Question.


20 minutes

I love this stratey called a Quotation Mingle. I find a bunch of quotes that have to do with the subject of the lesson, and have the students find someone with a different quote than themselves. They then share their quote, paraphrase it, make a connection, and have their partner respond. Then their partner shares their quote, paraphrases it, makes a connection and has their partner respond. 

Here's a video of them using this strategy for the very first time. It gets better throughout the year, and it gets a little noisy in the classroom, but students love it! 

This is a great way to build background knowledge about a subject (like discourse), and get comfortable with other people in the classroom community. Also, when they are comparing two quotes they are making text-to-text connections, and when they are connecting it something in their lives, or the world around them, they are really compounding that understanding. They are also working on social and listening skills along the way--score!

Work Time

15 minutes

For work time, I have the students read for about 10 minutes independently. Then we go back to Buzzing (or talking about) about our books. I give students about 5 minutes of "Buzzing" time after their independent reading time. They find a partner of their choice and explain what is happening in their book, or something they've found that was interesting (in the case of a nonfiction book, maybe).

This time, before we Buzz, I remind them of the importance of discourse. I tell them to talk to their partners about something that may be puzzling them in their books, and to use their partner as a resource.

Early in the year, it's really important that I model for my kids, so I read when they read and I "Buzz" when they "Buzz." I find a student and begin talking about what I'm reading (while trying not to bore them), and I listen to what they have to say about their book. At the end, I make it a point to thank them for sharing with me. I know it can be a rotten deal to get stuck with the teacher!


5 minutes

Because my students are really unable to hear the collective voice for this lesson, I want them to hear it for the end-of-class reflection. We share out examples of how their partners helped them through something in their book.

One student said, "I was really confused about what a wardrobe was, and my partner explained that it was just another word for closet in England."

As students are learning that this is a class where you can't sneak by--that the expectation is discourse (and a lot of it)--I anticipate more students sharing their thinking more often. Right now I, like most teachers, have those few who are the voices of the class. That's all going to change!