Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Engaging With Literature: A Workshop for Teachers, Grades 3-5

About This Workshop

Asking Questions: An Interactive Guide
1. Foundations

2. Looking at Literature

3. Starting Classroom Conversations

4. Classroom Dialogues

Introduction »

Key Points

Learning Objectives »

Background Reading »

Homework »

Classroom Connection »

Teacher Reflection »

Ongoing Activity »

Additional Reading »

5. Using Art and Other Disciplines To Enrich Classroom Conversations

6. Beginning the Year

7. Many Students: Many Voices and Abilities

8. Reacting to Students' Work

9. The Professional Teacher

Site Map

Workshop 4. Classroom Dialogues

Jonathan Holden and his student enjoy reading a poem together.Key Points

  • Good conversations about literature help students reach new insights about the text, themselves, and the world around them.

  • Good conversations help students become better critical thinkers as they test their understandings and ideas against those of their classmates.

  • Enabling good conversations provides teachers with a number of ongoing challenges.

  • Good discussion topics—those that are interesting to the students or ones to which they have personal connections—encourage rich conversations.

  • Teachers who value good discussions learn to be open to, and supportive of, spontaneous developments in the conversation.

  • Teachers have to be sensitive when presented with confidential or highly personal revelations from students, relating those issues back to the text in productive ways.

  • Teachers assume a number of roles during discussion, from taking part as a participant to stepping back as an observer.

  • Teachers' roles in a discussion change as they help students become more independent in their discussion groups or as specific groups need additional support and direction.

  • Teachers often play a supportive role in discussion groups by letting students shape the discussion and stepping in only as needed.

  • During discussion, the focus often shifts from the teacher's to the students' agenda as students focus on the issues that matter most to them.

  • Teaching specific literary concepts is done most effectively in the context of grappling with a text as a whole.

  • Envisionment-building teachers learn to be sensitive to identifying "teachable moments" and using them to present specific concepts within the larger context of the ongoing literary discussion.

  • Teachers in envisionment-building classrooms use both large- and small-group discussions depending on their agenda and the needs of their students at a particular time.

  • Many teachers use large-group discussions as platforms to teach and model strategies for effective conversation that they expect students to take into their small groups.

  • Helping students debrief about what went well or what didn't work in group discussions helps them develop strategies that will make them more successful in later discussions.

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