Speaking and Listening: Collaborative Conversations

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SWBAT describe a character from the reading with relevant details.

Big Idea

Your children will gain practice recalling details from what they read in the text.


As a First grade teacher I am very aware that children like to talk and share, however, they are still at the early stages of expressing themselves.  In many cases it takes a trained ear to fully understand what they are saying and trying to share.  Working with students from a low socioeconomic community and English Language Learners, I felt comfortable when I saw how in depth Common Core listening and speaking standards are for First graders.  Teaching children English and to take command of the language is what we do.  I like the way the Anchor Standards and state standards build on each other.

Common Core Connection

To give my students experience working together and making a presentation in an organized manner the focus on today’s lesson is CCR for Speaking and Listening 1: prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on other’s ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. I will do this through SL.1.4: participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade one topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.  The basic content that I will be using to teach the Speaking and Listening standards is taken from RL.1.3: Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

One misconception that is “out there” is that we need to teach each of the CCSS standards on their own, in isolation. In fact, especially when it comes to S&L standards, we should overlap them when we can to address the complexity of their demands in context.

Lesson Overview

My students will partner read The Kite, by Alma Flor Ada.  Then work together in small collaborative groups to describe the character of the mother, the children, or the kitten.


Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 5: Home Sweet Home, The Kite, by Alma Flor Ada          

Character Map Activity Sheet (Teacher Created)

Character Cards (Teacher Created)


5 minutes

We began this lesson at our desks.  Before taking out their anthologies, I had my students think and partner share what happened in the beginning, middle and end of yesterday’s storyThe Kite.  When they finished I called on three different students to share the events of the beginning, middle, and end of the story.  As these students shared, I reminded my students to show they were listening and agreed or disagreed by showing me a thumb up or down.  When they finished retelling the story I told them they were going to partner read the story, then after they finished reading they would work in a small group to describe one of the characters.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

From there my students opened their anthologies in preparation to partner read.  In my class I choose the first readers by who is the ‘Helper of the Day’.  For example if the Helper of the Day sits on the left side of the desk, then all children sitting on the left side of the desk is partner one and reads or shares first.  Once the first reader is established my students take turns reading each page of the story.  As my students are reading I circle around the room to make sure everyone is reading and on the same page.

Today as they finished reading I called their attention back to me by a short round of “Do what I do”, (Demonstration Video: Do As I Do) where I clapped a pattern of clapping my knees two times, then my hands two times, repeating the pattern until all my students were clapping the pattern with me.  Once they were all engaged I stopped and held up both hands and silently counted down from ten, showing my students by dropping one finger per number.  My students followed my motions and were soon ready for the next activity. 

However, before moving on I checked for understanding by using the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to select three students to share with the class with whom he/she read and whether they ran into any tough words as they read.  I do this to give my students a sense of accountability.  They know I will call on someone, they just don’t know who.  I also am aware that my students all want to share, to give them the opportunity, after the selected three shared out, I had the rest of the class whisper (Demonstration: Whisper to Me) who they read with and how well they each read.

Collaborative Activity

20 minutes

Once they all whispered to me, I gave them the directions to their collaborative activity.  I explained that they would be working in small groups of three to work together to describe the mother, the children, or the kitten in the story.  Each group would choose one character to describe by selecting one of the face-down Character Cards.  I then displayed the Character Map Activity Sheet on the Promethean board and directed their attention to each section telling them this was the activity sheet they would be working with.  I explained what each section was and how to fill it out.  I emphasized that as they worked together they were to look carefully at the pictures and re-read parts of the story if they needed to in order to finish the activity sheet.  I told them the little goal was to think about what the character was feeling, not that the mom has two eyes, or that the kitten is pretty.

The big goal of this activity, I told them, was to talk about the character with each other and decide together what to write on the activity sheet.

I then gave my students a moment to think about what they were going to do.  After that I used the magic cup to call on a student to tell the class what we were about to do. 

From there I directed my students to get into groups of three.  Once they were in their groups I sat them in work areas around the room.  Usually when we go into small groups I have two groups at the larger work tables, then I use the student tables at the end of the rows to form small work areas by adding chairs.  Check out Class Room Lay Out for an example.

Once they were situated I re-stated the directions, reminding them they were to work quietly together to finish the activity sheet.  As the Helper of the Day passed out the student Character Map Activity Sheet I went from group to group and had a student choose a character for their group to describe. 

I wanted to help the groups move away from describing physical, superficial attributes and towards describing character's feelings, changes they underwent over the course of the story, and how characters responded to events. Here are some guiding questions that I used to prompt the groups in order to help them:

  • What was the mom feeling when she started making the kite?
  • What made the kitten pretty?
  • How do the children feel at the beginning of the story compared to the end of the story?
  • Does it look like the children ever flew a kite before?  How can you tell?

As my students worked I circled the room to clarify directions and monitor progress.  In the videos Mom: Didn't Give Up and Mom: Expert Kite Maker the two groups described the mom in two different ways. 

When they were finished with activity I had the class re-group on the rug and had each group share with the class which character they chose and some of that character's character traits.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

To give my students the opportunity to demonstrate how they worked together to describe a character, I directed them to write in their journals who they worked with, which character they described, and their insights about the character. 

For my students who need more support I put this prompt on the Promethean board: My group partners were ___ and ___.  We worked together to describe ____.  _(character)_ was ___ because _____.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

To earn a sticker my students had to tell me one thing they learned about working with partners.