Friday, August 1, 2014

Promoting Collaboration and Conversation in the Classroom

This week I have had the opportunity of working with the literacy team and educators from Massachusetts focused on reviewing the final round of MCUs. As always, this exciting and invigorating work has made me think about the upcoming school year. A topic of discussion throughout our week together was how to build a collaborative classroom rooted in conversation. There are many different protocols that can be used throughout the year, which teachers can incorporate early on to increase educational conversations students have with each other. There are dozens of different methods that can be used at different times to ignite conversation in the classroom. If this attached list seems overwhelming, take a closer look at three highlighted protocols below.

Jigsaw
The first (and one of my favorites) is the jigsaw. The jigsaw promotes shared learning in the classroom, allowing students to become experts on a topic, with the ultimate goal of then sharing their new knowledge with their peers.  Additionally, if a topic has multiple resources, the jigsaw is an effective strategy to share information in a time effective way. Click on the link to see the jigsaw in action in a primary grade. This method is effective for students at any grade level and can be set up in a variety of ways.  For example, students may form small groups where each student reads a different article, becoming the “expert” on that topic. In other situations, students reading similar articles may read, and then meet as “experts” to discuss their new learning, ultimately bringing their information back to their original group. Regardless of how it is used, the teacher’s role is to step back and facilitate as students take over the role as teacher. This powerful technique increases the interaction of students with each other in the classroom.

Team - Pair – Solo
Team – Pair – Solo is a collaborative comprehension strategy implemented when introducing a complex or new content topic. In this activity students work on a problem, or begin a discussion around a new topic as a team, then move into a conversation with a partner, and then finally tackle the problem or article independently. This method is a great scaffolding tool where the students gradually gain more responsibility to take on the new information independently. By gradually releasing them, students have more information and build confidence as they grapple with a new task.

The Gallery Walk can be a reflective, independent activity formatted in a variety of ways for a range of reasons. One effective use of the Gallery Walk is to display student responses to literature. A teacher can then select any number of student responses to “exhibit” and have students comment, question and wonder about using post-its as they walk around the room. Ultimately, the teacher uses these ideas and thoughts to bring back and build a larger classroom discussion. A gallery walk can also be an interactive way for students to engage in pictures, problems and other sources of text. Teachers post these around the room, and students walk around observing and thinking about what they are experiencing, guided by an overarching question.  Whether the Gallery Walk is reflective or interactive, it provides students time to think and gather their thoughts or activate background knowledge before coming back to the larger group.


Many of these protocols can build a lively, collaborative classroom filled with educational conversation. Once the method has been introduced and practiced, teachers can implement and use them throughout the year to stimulate conversations in the classroom. 

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