Establishing a Culture of Talk: Building Content Knowledge
How do I facilitate discussions around content that are as rigorous as the discussions around provocative topics?
The students now have some experience with what it feels like to work with one another in constructing or refining content knowledge. Most likely, they also have experience with what it feels like to have content delivered to them via lecture.
Ask the students… • Which fits their learning styles best? • Should a classroom always be one way or the other? • When does a lecture fit? • When does it work to be able to share • one’s own thinking around a problem or topic?
Pose a problem around content – a math concept, a dilemma posed in a piece of literature, a hypothesis …
When a few students raise their hands to respond, the teacher can send a message about the kind of classroom culture and the kind of learning that’s going to occur in the class by responding with something like: “ I see Akira has her hand up with an idea and I see that Melea and Jose have ideas. Tyrell has an idea and Corine has an idea. I want to hear all of your ideas but I want you to remember that it’s not just me you’re sharing with; it’s everyone in the class. So, speak up so everyone can hear your idea. If you don’t have your hand up, your job is to listen to the ideas your classmates are sharing and decide if you agree or disagree with what they are saying. “
This sends several strong messages: • We learn from one another • – not just from the teacher. • Everyone has a job in the class at all times. • You are accountable for being on • task at all times.
As students talk, the teacher responds to individual students by pressing them for more information or examples when their ideas are unclear or underdeveloped…
The teacher also begins linking classmates’ ideas together so the students realize they can use one another’s thoughts to further develop or substantiate their own ideas…
Finally, the teacher encourages students to link their ideas to those of their peers. As students become skilled with the norms of classroom discussions, they will increase in rigor.
Research shows a link between engaging students in talk around their learning through classroom discussions and higher student achievement. Teachers can impact student test scores while deepening content knowledge.
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