Monday, April 09, 2012

Classroom Discussions?

How do you handle a classroom discussion?

I remember the frustration I felt as a young student during classroom discussions--so many students, so many ideas and so little time.

Today was a good example. We were talking about text-world connections as we read Out of the Deep.  I mentioned that one connection I made was the connection between the recent marine mammal strandings at Cape Cod and the stranding in the story at Acadia National Park.  I further described a conversation I had with my brother-in-law, a biology teacher, about the causes for the Cape Cod strandings, and that was like opening up the flood gates of questions, connections and expressions.

All hands were up.  Everyone wanted to share a question, story or idea. Side talk ensued.  Then after listening to many questions, answers and stories, and similar to my own teachers many years ago, I announced it was time to move forward in the story.

Tonight, students will have a chance to blog about their connections so that's one way to extend the conversation.  And, tomorrow, we'll continue on with the book.

In the meantime, how do you handle a classroom discussion?  What do you do when tangental, but important, questions begin to sway in all directions?  What is this like from the listener's or student's point of view?

As noted earlier, discussions like these often frustrated me as a student, yet on the other hand some of my most important learning occurred when the class was engaged in meaningful dialogue.  I'll never forget our late sixties discussions with my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Quist, as he facilitated debate and dialogue related to the Vietnam War, hippies, yippies and protest.

If you'd like to share some helpful hints, links or ideas related to the classroom conversation, please do. This is an area of school life I want to think more deeply about.