First, my reflections/questions:
"Grand Conversations" are intended to be very student-driven. The mongraph does, however, remind the reader that teachers "need to be ready to step in to... redirect talk that has become tangential". Currently in my classroom, this sort of thing is
One of the facets of effective conversations is that students build on one another's comments. Recently, my colleagues and I went to a "Possibilities" workshop through our federation, dealing with the issue of students affected by poverty. One interesting bit of research that was shared, that stuck with me, was an article about how it has been found that students affected by poverty tend to really struggle with saliency determination. I have certainly found this to be the case in my own classroom. Even the "hard workers" seem to be often so far off the mark because they weren't really sure which of the inundation of informational bits were the important one they were supposed to focus on!
How, then, shall these students build on the comments and themes of what their peers are saying???!!!
Another concern I have is with students who call out all the time, that is, students who struggle with impulse control in general. How do I handle them without constantly "shutting them down" for the benefit of the others and the health of the larger conversation?
Now, some ideas I was thinking of...
Since the monograph suggests text-based grand conversations, could one use math poetry, rich problems, or problems based on a rich mentor text, perhaps a social justice problem that flows from a picturebook, somehow involving equity, or... (stream of consciousness here...)
I will not co-construct my class norms for conversations, I think, but rather give them to the students first, then ask them to choose ONE of the class norms I have presented, and, turning to a partner, explain why they think this is a "good" norm/rule. (This could be scaffolded with a sentence started on chart paper or overhead that reads something like, "I think _____ is a good rule for conversations because _______")
We are going to be asking our students to have some really deep, rich conversations that use a lot of "academic" language. Due to the high ELL population, scaffolds at every step would probably be helpful. As an example, the monograph suggests training students to recognize rich talk about text, i.e. engaging in self and peer assessment during and after a "grand conversation". If we were going to focus on noticing how peers "link to and build on others' comments", I would provide a sentence stem such as "I noticed that ___________ built on _________'s comment when he said ___________". By providing students with the base language, I hope to free them up to focus on the important stuff, that is, noticing material with which to fill in the blanks!
To encourage many smaller "practice" conversations, I want to develop a system for talk partners. Although my students are set up in groups and by letter (so that I can say "person B in each group, work together", or "all the C and D people talk to each other", or "today you will work in your number groups"), I also want to build in choice. I think I will begin the year by having students choose "seasons" partners, and fill out one name in each space on the cards below (4 per page shown):
Open-ended, authentic questions prompt productive discussions, according to the monograph (page 5). Questions like this should be developed in advance, I think. I will try to build more of this into my planning when thinking ahead about grand conversations.
Loved the pre-talk ideas presented about "Consensus Boards", "Traffic Lights" and using GC in shared and guided reading groups.
A suggested video is here. No time to watch yet, but soon, soon!