Children's Books

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Stronger Student Discussions

     Last week I read a post by Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp called How to Have Better Student Discussions. Pernille talked about how she started off the school year teaching her seventh graders how to have stronger discussions. I know that my students need to become stronger readers, thinkers, speakers, listeners, and communicators. So I took almost all of Pernille Ripp's ideas and went to work. You can find Pernille's blog at
     Yesterday I led the students through a quick mini-lesson about the characteristics of a discussion found on the "Bounce Card". My kids understood what it means for everyone to participate, maintain eye contact, and talk enough, but not too much. They were stumped when it came to being aware of your body language. The kids thought body language is the vocabulary we use when referring to our body parts. (Note to self: NEVER assume the kids know the vocabulary I'm using.)  We practiced different types of body language and finished up our mini-lesson.
4th grade reading their texts and jotting down ideas.
     Today we quickly reviewed yesterday's mini-lesson, and then the kids each read the same story at their independent level.  The kids also had a couple index cards to record ideas they wanted to remember for discussion time.  Everyone was excited to start reading because they knew they would have the opportunity to share their thinking with peers.
    Then we got ready to share.  Everyone brought their discussion jots, "Bounce" card, and 2 talking tokens to the table.  I told the students that I would be making a video of the discussion for us to analyze later.  I asked, "Who will be brave and get the discussion started?" Brave souls threw out their talking chips and the discussion began.
     I was so proud of the discussions that followed.  The kids were so excited to talk with each other about the book. Everyone participated. Several friends "bounced" ideas off another classmate's comments.  The discussion wasn't perfect, but it was great for the first try.
Discussing the book.
     Tomorrow we're going to watch the videos of the discussions and have the kids evaluate the discussion based on the characteristics we talked about during the mini-lesson.  I think we'll watch the video once without the volume and have the kids evaluate their eye contact, body language, and engagement.  Then we'll turn the volume on and evaluate based on the depth of comprehension they are showing during the discussion. (I'll need to use a more kid friendly description of what we're looking for.)
     My GooglePhotos app made a really cool video clip of my 3rd graders having their discussion.

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