Have you ever tried to institute a new procedure or activity with the class and it just wasn’t working? Maybe you tried to fix it a few times to no avail. Maybe you just can’t figure out why it isn’t working. When this happens, you can give it back to the class to figure it out. But first, they need some strategies on how to explain their thinking.
I bring the students together to explain to them that we have a class problem that I need their help to solve. I explain that this is a class problem and every student is part of the class and therefore has a right to voice their opinion on the issue. However, we may not always agree. And sometimes, someone might say something that you hadn't thought about.
In order to prepare students for the conversation, I teach them how they are going to respond to each other throughout the conversation.
First, I will call on students to share and everyone will listen.
Next, while that person is sharing, everyone else should be thinking about whether or not they agree with that person.
Finally, when we state our opinion we back it up with a reason. For example, “I don’t think being in a straight line is important because _____________.”
This is one of the first times students are participating in a whole class conversation. With each consecutive meeting, I will refer to these expectations and add more. For now, students need a very clear way to conduct the conversation while the teacher guides them.
We then try it out as a class. I list the three rules that define what a correct line is that they students have been struggling with. I then go through each step at a time and ask them for their opinions.
The three rules are:
- the line must be straight
- students in the line need to be quiet while they are walking
- when students are in line, they should be facing forward
The first student raises her hand and states an opinion. I acknowledge her thoughts and then provide feedback to how she was able to present her idea with a reason. I call on someone else and then ask the rest of the students to identify ways that this student was successful at presenting her ideas. We continue to have our class discussion, stopping to give feedback when necessary.
After all students have shared, or the allotted time has elapsed, I ask the students for a thumbs up or thumbs down to indicate their agreement to anything that has been revised or confirmed in the rules of a what correct line is.