Students talk a lot. Their minds are on fire with what matters to them, and it has to come out. What someone said at recess about shoes, hair, clothes, the birthday party invitation, the video game, the basketball game, the game of tag. What parents want. Worries. Middle school. Talk is their natural state of being.
Talk is a gold mine. My task is to harness it with a purpose worth pursuing in the classroom.
This week I took a close look at book club talk. We’ve had lessons on using talk prompts; we’ve practiced using them; I’ve posted them on charts, but students weren’t using them to dig deeper.
On Tuesday evening, I was looking in my closet, and I found name tags. Hmm. What if students wore these as thought prompts? Imagine: “Hi! my name is — I agree, and I’d like to add on to that… ”
A student stopped by and asked what I was doing. I mentioned my idea. He thought about it; said it might be confusing. So I stuck the label on a card. And asked, what about a game card to play? He smiled.
The next day, the cards were introduced to club talk. The prompts were no different than the ones on the chart, but they worked. Ideas were growing, and the talk was book centered. Was it because they could be picked up, or was it because they were called game cards? Whatever the reason, they are magical devices.
Talk is a necessary and natural part of argument writing. This week reading clubs considered the debate on lifting the cell phone ban in New York City schools. Each group a created pro and con chart. Each student had articles and post-its to contribute on either side. They moved and regrouped post-its.
It was a messy and talk-fulled process.
This week I’m celebrating talk as an integral part of learning to read, write and think. Here’s to the mess and the noise of learning.
As always, thank you, Ruth, for your weekly call to celebrate. Read more celebration posts here.