Classroom Conversations

Classroom Conversations

Some children are natural born conversationalists.  You know these children.  You usually have to read "Lacey Walker Non Stop Talker" to them.  Some children are not talkers.  They would prefer to sit to the side quietly and listen. These children pose a special consideration when it comes to having classroom conversations.  It is very important for all of us to discuss what we are learning.  It helps us to process information.  Children gain so much information from speaking and listening to their peers.They are exposed to alternative ideas.  Maybe their peers help them to consider new options or change their thinking.  While the children are having these conversations, they could be analyzing and synthesizing information that you taught them! The wonders of higher level thinking.

Talking about our thinking
If you have ever worked with or spoken to young children, you know the key to getting everyone to talk.  Just bring up something that interests them! This is the key to starting conversations in your class. Student interest driven learning.  At the onset of every school year we send home interest surveys.  One to the parent and one to the student.  We are most interested in the student.  We want to know what interests them.  If I have a classroom full of students who love whales, I will be sure to teach a standard with a book on whales.  Our district tried to throw a wrench into my plan this year by telling us that we have to teach from the basal. Oh the horror.  At this point, we switched our focus to how the students enjoy learning.  They are quick to tell us "I love projects where we get to create posters!"  Easy enough, we will be reading that basal story and creating posters.  The kids love telling us all about their posters and discussing their peer's posters.  After every unit we have the students give us feedback on their engagement.  Did their learning environment keep them happy? This is super easy.  Simply ask, "How did you like the project today?" They are easy to please, they just ask for more projects that I can tweak to meet their learning needs (which they may not consider).  They also understand that we can't do things their way every time, but we will do our best.

Once you have their interest, you can sneak in procedures for conversations.  This is where you give students talking stems.  Teach them how to start conversations about their learning.  Guide them in accountable talk.  Most importantly, teach them how to respect their peers.  If you are listening to a conversation in my class, you will probably hear "I like your thinking and I would like to add".  You may hear, "I appreciate your thoughts, but I respectfully disagree".  This happened in my 1st grade classes in years past and it happens in my 2nd grade class presently.

If you don't already hear these conversations in your class, here's how you can get started.

1.  Plan super engaging lessons that your kids will love to talk about.

2.  Discuss why conversations are important with your class.  Make sure to relate it to why it is important to the student.

3.  Set procedures and guidelines for conversations for the students.  

4.  Give the students talking stems.  Start with basics that they can use for everything.
I agree with you because…
I disagree with you because…
I like your thinking and would like to add…

5.  Once they have the basics down you can add on to their thinking stems.  Consider giving them specific stems that go well with their learning topic.

If you need more direction or want the lessons and materials all ready for you, just click on the picture below to link to my store.

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is a wonderful opportunity to bring engaging learning into the classroom! There is plenty of time for you to gather materials and make your lesson plans come alive for your students.  The books shown above are wonderful books to teach your students in k-2 key details about Chinese New Year.  The Dancing Dragon pulls out to show a huge 4' long Dragon Parade.  I've yet to find another book that captivates students the way that The Dancing Dragon does when you pull out the dragon pages.

Legend states that Buddha called all of the animals together to meet on the new year.  Twelve animals showed at the meeting and Buddha named a year after each one.  People born in these years are said to have the traits of the animals from their year.

During the new year, people wear red and celebrate.  One of the celebrations is the lantern festival.  People join together with family, friends and their community to celebrate the lantern festival.  There you will find beautifully decorated lanterns lit in a night parade.

 The highlight of the lantern festival is the dragon dance.  Elaborate dances are put together with dazzling costumes.  Firecrackers are lit to celebrate the new year.

Every year we read books about Chinese New Year in my class.  After we read about the new year, we make our own red lanterns and then we put on our own parade.  One student is selected to lead the parade with a paper mask that I made.  The rest of the students line up behind the leader with their arms on the person's shoulders in front of them.  I throw my red blankets over them.  They don't care that there are snowmen on them.  We dance through the classroom stepping on bubble wrap for firecracker sounds.  This is an excellent engagement activity.  Afterwards the kids are ready to read more books closely and respond to text dependent questions.  I only wish that we could teach this way every day!

Above you will find a freebie that I'm offering you to compare the Chinese New Year to the North American New Year.  (I didn't want to leave out my geographical surrounding friends!)  If you find yourself short on time and would like more lesson suggestions and materials click on the link below.