09: Classroom Conversations





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  • Pitfalls of Many Classroom Discussions:
    • mainly teacher monologues
    • 80% teacher speaking, 20% students talking if lucky
    • missing student explanations
    • uses quick checks for comprehension without elaboration
    • struggling students talk the least
    • focus on fast delivery of information
  • Benefits of Facilitating Classroom Conversations:
    • can assess student understanding in real time
    • less reteach
    • students are more active in their own learning
  • Strategies for Facilitating Good Classroom Conversations:
    • Break up teacher monologues with student processing time. During student processing time, students discuss with their neighbor what they think is important and what they find confusing.  After giving students pair discussion time, call on individual students randomly to share what they thought was confusing and what they thought was important.
    • Use rich visuals and vocab cards (see p. 9 and 10 in slides).  Ask students which words on vocab cards appear in visuals and explain why.
    • Use vocab cards with research and workshops.  After reading a passage or going through a couple workshop slides, ask which words were featured and what was learned related to those words.
    • Use sentence stems to scaffold conversations.
    • Use Better Together protocol: Periodically pause during workshop that students are annotating.  During pause, students compare notes with a partner.  Using comparison to add missing details to notes.
    • Always / Sometimes / Never: Display statements that are true or true-ish.  Ask students to identify which statements are always, sometimes and never true.  Also, ask students to create statements about topics that are always, sometimes, and never true.
    • Use sentence stems and vocabulary cards to scaffold synthesizing academic conversations within teams or between partners.
Knowing common pitfalls of classroom discussion can help teachers identify these and replace them with better practices.  Knowing many strategies for facilitating good classroom conversations can help one scaffold academic conversations without becoming too repetitive.  Facilitating good academic conversations can help students become more active agents in their own learning and can provide another form of formative assessment.


Preparation Steps
  • Identify key vocabulary for upcoming project
  • Create vocabulary cards for key vocabulary – see page 9 in slides
  • Research and select scaffolding strategies for learning vocabulary and for facilitating academic conversations – see above for examples
  • Develop resources (graphic organizers, sentence stems, question sequences, etc) for selected scaffolding strategies
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement strategies for extending and deepening classroom conversations for ALL students
  • Use formative assessments to determine if classroom conversations are developing accurate content knowledge
  • Listen carefully to classroom conversation to determine if students are learning new content
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Identify practices that can be used repetitively (routines) to extend and deepen frequent academic conversations
  • Have students reflect on how practices are helping them achieve specific learning targets
  • Reflect on which strategies are creating the most engagement and most achievement for students
  • Use tech tools such as Wiki Talki to create more opportunities for students to get peer feedback on their academic oral responses to questions

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