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Something to Talk About- Student Led Discussions in the Classroom

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Do your students like to talk?
 Collaborative discussions in the classroom- tips for utilizing a chatty class
LOL! Ok… Let me rephrase that… do your students like to talk even when they’re not suppose to AND about things that are not relevant to your lesson?
I am sure you are nodding your head like I am (especially if you teach seconds’ like I do!) Well, a while ago I had a HUGE observation coming up and I was worried… like REAL worried. Why? Mainly because my kiddos were having a HUGE issue with talking. And not just talking while I’m talking kinda stuff either! We’re talking MAJOR -pull out your hair, I’ll wait forever talking talking!
So I did what any exhausted  teacher would do! I gave them a reason to talk!
Let’s me honest… most kids don’t like to listen, let alone to this old school marm! So I created some talking points cards to help harness my students’ overwhelming need to talk.
These have quickly become one of our favorite activities! Here’s what we did to get the collaborative conversation rolling…
First we discussed our “Chatting Rules“.

As a class we brainstormed some “rules” we would have to follow to make sure our discussion times were fair.  I typed those up and each time we prepare for a discussion of a text, I project them up on my screen and we review what they look and sound like during a discussion activity.

Then, I pass out one to two cards for each table (4-5 students) to discuss. I was amazed at how quickly my students picked up on proper discussion techniques and how nice they were actually being to each other!
Here’s one group discussing an author’s purpose card for one of our weekly stories. I wish I had take some video so you could hear how she was justifying her answer to her peers using the evidence from the text!



Here’s a shot of a different group discussing the main character of our story. In response to his answer, one of my other students responded with, “I totally get what you’re saying. I just don’t agree with your evidence. Show me where you found that in the story.” SAY WHAT?! #fromthemouthofbabes #proudteachermoment
I give each group about 3-5 minutes to discuss each card. Any longer and I am not *quite* sure the conversation would stay on topic. You could adjust the time accordingly for your class.
After we’ve discussed, I have the students rate themselves on their discussion participation and techniques (Can you say Common Core?)  Here’s what that rubric looks like:
Self-checking student rubric
After the students check through the rubric and rate how they thought they did, I sat down with them and discussed their scores and what I saw through-out the discussion.  To keep track, I’ve included a check list so you can make notes of students as you facilitate. You’d be amazed at how more meaningful this kind of feedback is! I was floored to see how engaged and concerned students were, and how quickly they were able to I.D. their weakness and some were even able to give a suggestion on how to change that behavior!
We’re slowly making our way through the cards. I try to plan at least one discussion day each week, usually after we’ve read our story 2-3 times. There are two sets of discussion cards in this pack.
One for literary text
and one for informational
 You can use these cards with almost ANY text, so the cards can be used over and over again without feeling routine or rehearsed.
If you’re kiddos aren’t ready to led their own discussions, then you can also use the question cards in a whole group or teacher led small group setting. This is a great way to model as to what good discussion looks and sounds like.
Now that my kiddos are familiar with asking each other questions, we’ve began formulating questions for text to ask each other on our own! I love how they can now distinguish between a “fat” question and a “skinny” questions. At first, they often wanted to only write “skinny” questions, or questions that can be answered with only one or two words. Now, they like to challenge their partners with questions and create “Fat” questions that force their buddies to go back to the text! (You can find an example of that activity in my newest center pack here. )
Want to get the discussion going in your room? Make up a few question cards of your own! Or you can grab this pack at my TpT store!
Each card is aligned to a specific Common Core Standard (for grades 2-4) and I’ve included a reference chart so you won’t have to guess which card goes with which standard! #onelessthingtoworryabout
 Academic Conversations- using that chatty class to learn!
Do you have student led discussions in your classroom? If so, comment below! I’d love to hear how you facilitate this kind of lesson!

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Hi, I'm Leigh.

The Applicious Teacher is all about creating hands-on and engaging lessons that align with the standards while still having time for your life. This is your place for ideas, tips, and resources for the REAL teacher!


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