Primary Chalkboard: The Teacher Studio
Showing posts with label The Teacher Studio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Teacher Studio. Show all posts

"Accountable Talk"--but are they ready?

Many of us are familiar with the term "accountable talk" as it refers to discourse in the classroom.  Many districts have been implementing "accountable talk" initiatives where teachers are working hard to explicitly teach students how to engage in quality educational discussions.  I think most educators will be in agreement that this is a good idea.  After all, we know that academic discourse can lead to amazing learning--and can improve engagement and interest.  Many teachers have accountable talk "stems" or sentence starters posted and use these to help guide students through more and more sophisticated discussions.  I'm a huge fan--really!
But I sometimes stop and look at my own students and realize that, for some, we may need to back up a little from this.  It's all well and good to teach students the ins and outs of a quality discussion.  Students may know WHAT to say and even be able to explain why.  But there is one thing I think we sometimes forget--some students just lack the confidence to apply these new tools we are teaching them!  By engaging in these discussions and saying things like, "I disagree with you because..." or "I would also like to add...", it requires a great deal of confidence and risk taking.

One thing I have started to do in recent years is give students a lot more opportunities to build their oral language skills in pairs and get them used to sharing their ideas, piggybacking off of other ideas--and even disagreeing with others.  By doing this in much smaller groups, the risks go down, and confidence can increase dramatically.  

I start having partners share stories that I have on these cards.  I have a whole range of topics--things that ALL students should be able to talk about for about a minute.  We practice with our pairs making a comment about what the other person says...they might just compliment them...or ask a question...or make a connection...but it's all very relaxed.  I may then invite some students to share ideas with the whole class.  I love to make the connection to writing--about how learning to TELL stories is the first step in WRITING stories.  This practice accountable talk is fun, relaxed, and builds comfort in a much safer environment than in front of the entire class...and allows me time to walk around and "coach" and make suggestions.
 Sometimes, too, it's fun to just throw a word or phrase out there and let the students talk!  The other day, I presented this card to the class...and we practiced agreeing and disagreeing with each other in groups of three.  We had people talking about their opinions about roller coasters...about personal experiences about roller coasters...and even about how they work and how dangerous they can be.  What do you notice?  That's right--writing genres!  This was the perfect time to talk to students about how a simple topic like homework...or snakes...or losing..,can lead to countless discussions or pieces of writing.  In fact, after they had their roller coaster discussions, we did some whole-class sharing and then I sent them off to their writer's notebooks to free write on the topic for about 15 minutes.  Their pencils were furiously scratching across their pages--and I know it's because they had some amazing discussions before  they wrote. students are having a lot of fun with language these days, are getting to know each other, and are building their confidence daily.  As we move deeper in the school year, I know that more and more of them will be ready to chime in to class discussions and really use those accountable talk stems I have hanging there!

Because I use these so often in my class (these are great fillers when you have 5 minutes...while you wait for a special transition in from recess...), I did make a nice laminated set for my class.  I have put them in my store as well--I know this would be SO easy for teachers to do on their own, but sometimes just having them done is so nice!  I have informational topics, opinion topics, and cards geared for personal narrative stories--so I can use these with every genre of writing I teach.  Here is the link if you are interested.  Thanks for stopping by today!


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Setting a climate for problem solving!

One thing that we all know to be true is that "real world" math doesn't show up on a page with 12 problems!  Our job as teachers is to prepare students to solve ANY problem that comes their way!  As we start a new school year, setting a climate for problem solving can set the stage for a year where students are willing to dig in and use their math skills no matter WHAT the circumstances.  

To get the year started, there are a few phrases that I like to introduce to my students and then reinforce all year long--words that help set the tone for the kind of "math learning" I want to happen all year long.  See what you think!
One of the biggest things I have noticed over the years is that many students have a very real fear of being wrong.  This fear keeps them from participating, keeps them from enjoying math, and--worst of all--keeps them from learning!  In the first weeks of school, I push my students to take risks.  I give them impossible problems.  We work in pairs. We solve problems that have countless answers--and I encourage them to find answers that no one else will find.  Throughout all this, I highlight students and teams that have showcased risk taking--even if their answers aren't correct!  
I even share a few quotes about taking risks and we talk about real life experiences they have had where taking a risk paid off!  If you want a copy of these "take a risk" quotation posters, click here
Another idea that I stress with my students is that they need to always be ready to revise their own thinking!  I had a super fun lesson where we debated about whether or not certain shapes were rectangles.  Some students were SO rigid in their thinking that they were unable to take in new ideas from others and revise their own understanding about the concept.  If you want to read more about this lesson, CLICK HERE to see it!
 This, of course, directly relates to my NEXT phrase--"critique thinking".  I always want my students thinking about what they hear, evaluating if it makes sense, and then offering up their own ideas in a polite, constructive way.  This was a HUGE part of the rectangle lesson and many other similar lessons.  Students need to learn how to offer up their critiques in a productive way--and this is all a part of creating that climate for risk taking and problem solving.  
 Another phrase I teach my students early in the school year is "justify your answer".  Students know that saying "I just knew it!" won't get them very far--and that they need to learn to use math language to explain their thinking to others.  Other students should be able ask questions requesting clarification as well.  The discussions are just fascinating!  At the beginning of the year, I need to step in as a coach, but as the year unfolds, the discussions run themselves!
 Finally, my favorite.  Perseverance.  Without this, nothing else matter!  From the first day of school, I stress with my students how important it is to be willing to dig in and WORK HARD.  We talk about how to ask for help--but only after really giving it a good try.  We talk about how to "help" each other by coaching and not giving answers.  We talk about how GOOD it feels to take on a challenging problem--and to work through it.  We talk about how the PROCESS of doing math is more important than the answer (at times)...and to be willing to dig in and try will pay off in the end.  I deliberately present my students with problems that are challenging to help them learn how to navigate this uncomfortable feeling...and how to help each other with the math--and with encouragement.
If you teach intermediate grades, I have a freebie all about perseverance if you are interested!  It gives a little more information plus a challenging problem for you to present to YOUR class to see how well they can persevere.  I have a full resource related to this as well with additional problems to use to help teach perseverance if you are interested.  Just click the "Persevere" sign above.  Want to try the freebie?  Click the image below.
Thanks so much for joining me for my first post here at Primary Chalkboard!
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