The intent of “Talk Tuesdays” was twofold: to use the readings/texts in a purposeful way, and invite students to think about discussion, and practice.
Well, that is the intent, and we all know about roads paved, etc. But I think I became too distracted or mired in the concept of ‘accountable talk.’ I’m not sure if you know my connotative negative bias toward the word ‘accountable’ when it comes to students. Accountable talk is a buzzkill idea. There. I said it. However, sometimes students think it’s going to be a free-for-all talk fest, and, well, sometimes it is. And that’s okay. I would rather have things turn more raucous than censored.
But somehow, and I’m speaking purely for myself, putting the descriptor ‘accountable’ on anything makes it taste like educational cardboard. If we start thinking about what are real purpose is, what we want students to be engaged, and even enchanted by, is sharing ideas in a passionate, “oh oh oh!!” way–and it’s okay if not everyone is excited about every topic. I know I’m not, and that honesty with students helps them know that sometimes they are not as emotionally invested in a topic as others.
What Great Listeners Do by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman in the Harvard Business Review provides clear expectations that could be easily modeled and role-played in class. The TL:DR version is great listeners help build the spark of an idea. It’s not a ‘you have a problem and I’ll fix it’ but more like an engaging gear, making an idea move forward. (Spouses take note.) This article is going directly into my teaching strategies with writing workshop, too.
Key ingredients exist in any interesting conversation:
- An emotional stake (personal connection and empathy)
- Ambiguous, essential questions that have kaleidoscope viewpoints
- Allowances to shift or pivot with new information (see my substantive form)
- Metacognition: understanding one self in order to monitor and assess how important the topic or theme is to one personally; extrapolate to a larger scale
There are multiple pathways for discussion, too:
- Socratic Seminars
- Town Hall meetings
- Turn and Talk
- Writing Workshop (next post)
- Think, Pair, Share
- About a thousand others (dang my hyperbole!)
The trick is to make sure students are listening, and having a chance with their say. It can come in the form of real talk, or on a class discussion board, etc. Two strategies I use are what I call the “ambassador of the table” idea. Whether or not I choose or they choose, there is an ambassador from each group who shares out what the group has said. Also, if it’s a small partner group of 2 to 3, each person has to share what the other said, and it’s always paraphrased. The person who is not speaking can then agree or repudiate what their partner interpreted.
How to Listen Better
Five Ways to Listen Better
Here are a few resources I’ve created or collected along the way:
Town Hall Meeting Guidelines – provided by Doug Selwyn
Substantive Student Talk Graphic Organizer — I created this to help guide discussions
What do you have to say about this?