"What we're doing is really negotiating the meaning of the text. I believe there's not one meaning in a text that I have and the students are supposed to get. We all bring what we bring to the book based on what we've experienced in our lives and other things we've read. And we put all those out into the mix and come out with a totally different reading at the end. So that's what I'm hoping for."
Many teachers are afraid to promote classroom discussion in which students assume control of its shape. And with good reason. What happens when students set the agenda? How much direction should the teacher provide? What should a teacher do when a discussion doesn't work? How does a teacher help students learn to treat conflicting points of view with respect? What happens when students veer off the topic, or reveal information of a highly personal—perhaps even private—nature? Clearly, facilitating such discussions is a complex—and sometimes risky—business.
-Katherine Bomer, 5th-Grade Teacher,
Pleasant Hill Elementary School,
Authentic conversation is, however, central to the success of an envisionment-building classroom. In this video, the teachers discuss the complexities of encouraging such discussions. As they share ways in which they help students develop as proficient conversationalists and strategies they have discovered for dealing with difficulties, think about how their strategies might work for you and your students.
For a complete guide to the workshop session activities, download and print our support materials.