Wisdom Begins with Wonder

Make time for… conversation

small talk

small talk - from the brilliant xkcd.com

Who does the speaking in your classroom?

When students speak, to whom are they speaking?

When students are talking to each other, what are they talking about?

These are absolutely critical questions. The answers to these questions speak volumes about the level of student engagement in a class.

Who does the speaking in your classroom?

Is it you, or is it the students? If the teacher is the star of the show in their classroom, students are not actively engaging with the content. If students aren’t actively engaging with the content they aren’t learning – at least not with any depth; they aren’t building capacity for transfer. Transfer is the ability to apply learning to new situations, which truly demonstrates ownership of knowledge and depth of understanding.

When students speak, to whom are they speaking?

Are students talking to the teacher or to each other? If student conversation always passes through the teacher-gatekeeper, true discourse is not taking place. Students must be given the opportunity to ask and answer peer questions. The teacher should serve as a passive facilitator (0r even an outside observer) whenever possible.  One great way to get true student-student discourse rolling is with a socratic seminar; another is whiteboarding.

When students are talking to each other, what are they talking about?

When students are talking to each other, are they talking about class content or the latest mind-rotting episode of Jersey Shore? If class content is not engaging or students aren’t afforded time for their curiosity, conversations in your class will quickly veer off task. This is why many teachers hesitate to allow students time for conversation. It is also a great measure of student engagement. Give students a few minutes to talk about your current class topic. Do they talk about it? If not, do they need a more structured conversation protocol, or do you need to revamp your content?

How do you make time for conversation in your classroom?

comic used under cc license from xkcd.com


5 comments ↓

  • #   Kayla on 11.29.10 at 6:54 am     

    Hi! I am from Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class in Mobile, Alabma. I never thought about this, but it is so true. I know as a student if I was in a classroom where the teacher only spoke, it got boring really fast. I believe this is a great example of why creativity should be used in almost every assignment. If you get a student’s imagination to flow then they are more likely to learn. Thank you for taking time to post blogs such as this.
    -Kayla


  • #   Alfonso Gonzalez on 11.29.10 at 5:04 pm     

    Yes! I think whiteboarding is great! I love the way students talk to each other instead of presenting to me. It’s weird when there’s a whole class and students just talk or present to me.

    I’ve been reading about socratic seminars but haven’t taken the plunge to trying them out in my classes. How does it work in Science? Do you have them read an article or something?


  • #   Mr. Rice on 11.29.10 at 5:34 pm     

    Kayla –

    Thanks for the thoughts!

    Have you read my posts about socratic seminars and whiteboarding?


  • #   Mr. Rice on 11.29.10 at 5:40 pm     

    Al-

    Did you read my post about socratic seminars: http://trice25.edublogs.org/2010/07/20/socratic-seminars-in-science-class?

    An engaging article is one way to inspire them but I’ve also done them based on videos, labs, or simply questions about our current topic!


  • #   Alfonso Gonzalez on 11.29.10 at 5:55 pm     

    Awesome! Thanks, Tyler!

    Now I just have to try it. Three times! Yikes :o)


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