Students are about to participate in a discussion about literature, so I am super excited! I have conducted Shared Inquiry discussions for several years know. I model them from the Jr. Great Books recommendations, but they have evolved over time into my own style. I love these discussions because talking about the story helps the students gain insight. They learn so much from each other and begin to see things differently. I have experienced so many Ah Ha moments from students during these discussions which keep me coming back for more. It does take awhile to train the students to discuss effectively, and the discussions take time in class, but in my opinion, it is well worth the effort. The discussions help students process information, make connections, and comprehend the intricacies of the text on a deeper level.
With CCS, students are expected to be able to participate in academic discussions with their peers. This is something that most students are definitely not comfortable with at first. They are used to the teacher being more involved in the discussion, but now, students are expected to be able to pose questions and answer questions using textual support. I think that this shift in learning is so powerful especially because our techie students often don't know how to have a meaningful conversation about learning.
As much as I am in love with the shared inquiry process, my students, however, are less thrilled at the beginning. They do end up loving them, but it takes some careful planning to get them there.
Academic discussions can be a intimidating experience at first, so I start by setting some expectations.
I have a few teachery items that I talk about first.
To participate, you must be prepared with your text and an answer to the question.
All students must participate.
All students must listen.
The conversation is between students and not directed at the teacher.
I can usually count on my students to fill in the rest of the details like...
After we've come up with a list of expectations, I will post it near the discussion table. I am pretty laid back during this first discussion, but eventually I will expect students to actively contribute comments and questions.
I like to do this activity before students answer the discussion question. I feel like they try harder knowing that they will be sharing it with their peers as well as me. Setting the expectations before the close reading, as opposed to right before the discussion, helps set the tone. We will have a focused discussion in a safe environment. Even though the students will feel nervous at first, I want them to know that their opinions will be listened to and that each person is an important part of the group.
Before we can discuss, I have the students focus on a specific part of the text. In this case I want them to think about why Squeaky says girls never smile at each other.
I have them read a specific part of the text starting with "So I am strolling down Broadway" and
and ending with "to see what trouble they could get into through him. "
As they read, they will circle what people say to each other and underline judgments Squeaky makes about the girls.
Once they've read I will have them look at the circled and underlined parts. I will ask them to think about why Squeaky says and thinks these things....What is really going on ? What do you notice?
Then, they will answer the question:
Why does Squeaky think that girls don't know. and don't really want to know, how to smile at each other?
They will use the beloved RACE Method to ensure that they have cited specific evidence from the story and explained themselves. As they are writing, I want my students to keep in mind that this is the answer that they will bring to the discussion table! They will want to make sure they are carefully finding the best evidence to support their opinions.