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Bringing Balanced Literacy Into Primary, Intermediate and Upper Grade Classrooms

Engaging Students in Sustained Collaborative Discussion

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Engaging Students in Sustained Collaborative Discussion

Classroom discussion is an important strategy for enhancing understanding, clarifying and refining meaning, making connections, inferring, and synthesizing information. It serves an important social function in the classroom by creating an opportunity for all students to participate in collaborative conversations to enhance learning. Discussion is centered on student thinking flowing from their questions and topics of inquiry. The role of the teacher is to facilitate the students’ collaborative conversations around topics of inquiry. The purpose of collaborative conversation is to create an environment for the discussion of reading selections that integrates sharing, peer interaction, and expert guidance. Sustained collaborative discussion enhances exploration transmission and construction of meaning (Tierney & Readence, 2000, p. 306).

Middle level grades are social settings. Providing students with varied opportunities to collaborate and share often increases student motivation and provides teachers with a way of channeling “kid-talk” productively into the curriculum.

The role of the teacher is:

To create an environment that promotes engagement in collaborative conversations about text.

To guide students to elaborate on, provide evidence for, and extend their thinking about topics of inquiry.

To be an effective listener who is respectful of the opinions of others.

To facilitate the students’ collaborative conversation around topics of inquiry.

To balance peer interaction and teacher guidance, providing multiple and varied opportunities for students to discuss before, during, and after reading.

To explicitly instruct, model, and coach students to develop effective collaborative discussion techniques through think aloud and role play.

To clarify ideas, reflect feelings, resolve different points of view, and pose questions to students.

To encourage students to return to text to clarify, verify, and extend meaning.

The role of the student is:

To read assigned text and participate in collaborative discussion in pairs, small groups, or in a whole group setting.

To be an effective listener respecting the opinions of others.

To clarify ideas, reflect feelings, resolve different points of view, and pose questions to peers.

To connect text to personal experiences, other text, and the world.

To return to text to clarify, verify, and extend meaning.

The observer will see:

The teacher facilitating student-centered collaborative discussions.

The teacher modeling and coaching appropriate collaborative discussion interactions.

The teacher and students making connections, inferring, summarizing, synthesizing, analyzing text, elaborating, and responding before, during, and after reading.

The students engaging in collaborative discussion related to text before, during, and after reading (in pairs or small groups).

Resources:

Irvin, J., Buehl, D., & Klemp, R. (2003). Reading and the high school student: Strategies to enhance literacy. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Langer, J. (1995). Envisioning literature. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University Press.

Tierney, R., & Readence, J. (2000). Reading strategies and practices: A compendium. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Wilhelm, J.D. (2002). Action strategies for deepening comprehension. New York: Scholastic Books.

CPS Grades 4-8 Literacy Observation Guidelines 26

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