Using Sentence Stems and Explicit Instruction for Classroom Discussions
Teaching discussion skills can be daunting! You know you want productive, positive discussions… but how do you get there? Here’s some of what works for me!
Body Language & Politeness Matter
Eye Contact: looking directly at the speaker lets them know they have your attention
Inviting Posture: Facing your body toward the speaker with an open posture invites them to share. Avoid crossed arms if you can!
Use your group member’s name when addressing them.
Ex. “Dan, can you tell me more about what you thought the author meant by…”
2. Paraphrasing lets the speaker know you have listened and understand.
In other words,
…It sounds like…
There are some key points you’re bringing up…
From what you’re saying,…
3. Clarifying lets the speaker know you have listened but do not fully understand.
Would you tell me a little more about…?
Let me see if I understand…
Can you tell me more about…
It would help me understand if you’d give me an example of…
So, are you saying/suggesting…?
What do you mean by…?
How are you feeling about…?
Let students collect data on their use of these important behaviors! Encouraging them to formally reflect on their performance after each and every discussion instills in them the importance this work.
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For the last two years I have been welcomed into many classrooms as a coach, or as my favorite mentor Jan so accurately describes: a thought partner. When she used that language two years ago during our first New Teacher Center Mentor Academy, I had no idea just how connected I would feel to that phrase today. I have partnered with some incredible thinkers over these two years. Some of these thinkers have been my fellow coaches, the teachers I support and their administrators.
What better way to develop an Environment of Respect and Rapport than by developing a 1:1 relationship with each student??Watch Rick connect with students about their reading during conferences. What does he do/ say that develops an environment of respect and rapport? What does Rick communicate to his students with his verbal and non-verbal language? I’ve seen similar successes with Experimental Design Conferences in a middle school science class as well as Think Tank conferences in a high school math class. In each instance, teachers demonstrated great respect for their students’ thinking by honoring scheduled time with everyone. How could you make something like this work in your context? What do you & your students stand to gain?
I’ve been following the release of each week’s #yearatMH video clip since hearing Sam Chaltain speak at this year’s NTC Symposium. These clips are a prime example of the value of respectful relationships within, around and between members of a school community. If you haven’t watched one yet, make today the day. I believe these videos to be powerful on so many levels, not the least of which is shaping our expectations (& those of non-educators) of school culture. Share with a parent and watch how quickly they find themselves able to articulate what they want from their child’s school! Think too as you watch and listen, about what pieces of this experience you can bring into your classroom. What do you notice about the language of learning (both verbal and non verbal)? How do adults and students show respect for each other, the school and learning? Happy viewing! I hope this is your first if many visits to this site!!