Wow…I watched my 5th graders on Wednesday have a great discussion on Today’s Meet about books. They were sharing and recommending, and asking for recommendations and connecting and just basically having a ball. They went on and on for around 30 minutes.
On Thursday, I put 3 of my fourth graders into a “fishbowl” to talk about the books they are reading. The kids watching the fishbowl conversation were supposed to write down thoughts they had that connected to the book talkers, or questions they had. The first group was extremely self conscious, but they could each talk about their book. Success! After all, this is literacy group, right?
They just didn’t have a conversation–each of them took a turn talking and then there was dead silence. Then one kid asked if either of the other two had anything else to say, because he could “add a whole bunch more”. When neither of them spoke up, we started hearing the whole story of the book he was reading!
So we tried a second group–after one kid had said, “A conversation is supposed to go back and forth, back and forth–and they just said something and no one responded.”
So in the second group, I told the “watchers” they were to listen for questions the group members asked, and still write down their connections. That prompt itself changed the conversation–since the three kids knew the rest of them were listening for questions, they did ask questions of each other–in 5 minutes, they asked each other somewhere between 12 and 15 questions…
The we noted that one of the speakers wasn’t looking at both other people in the fishbowl , but only looked to one. We talked about how that body language could make someone feel left out, and how nice it feels when someone looks at you and smiles as they are talking. At this point, the kids were all clamoring to get in the fishbowl to talk, and to show they could ask questions and they could talk to both people, and be the best they could be. However, our time was up…so they all walked out of my class wanting it to be tomorrow so they can come back and talk about books. They can’t wait!
And neither can I. I want to see their eyes light up as they hear about books and they decide they want to read that one. I want to see them scribbling furiously as they make those connections to their friends talking and as they think of something they want to ask. I want to watch their questions get more and more sophisticated and their connections get stronger and stronger as they realize how the stories they read and the books they study have connecting features ands elements?
Now, it’s my job to keep ramping it up so their conversations become more than retelling the story and sharing favorite books. Keep tuning in…I’ll be sharing how I shape that happening as I go along.