Content-Area Conversations: How to Plan Discussion-Based Lessons for Diverse Language Learners

Content-Area Conversations: How to Plan Discussion-Based Lessons for Diverse Language Learners

Content-Area Conversations: How to Plan Discussion-Based Lessons for Diverse Language Learners

Content-Area Conversations: How to Plan Discussion-Based Lessons for Diverse Language Learners

Synopsis

Teachers across the country are seeking ways to make their multicultural classrooms come alive with student talk about content. Content-Area Conversations: How to Plan Discussion-Based Lessons for Diverse Language Learners is a practical, hands-on guide to creating and managing environments that spur sophisticated levels of student communication, both oral and written.

Excerpt

As so often happens when writing a book, we encountered a new study along the way that echoed many of the concerns we were writing about. The Longitudinal Immigrant Student Adaptation Study, led by Carola and Marcelo Suárez-Oroczo and Irina Todorova (2008), followed the academic and personal lives of more than 400 new arrivals to the United States for five years as they moved through middle and high school. Their findings were predictable to any who have dedicated their professional lives to these most hopeful students: that proficiency in English was the best predictor of academic achievement. This is no surprise considering that our measures of academic achievement are overwhelmingly in English. Sadly, over the course of the five-year study, more than two-thirds of the participants saw their grade point averages (GPAs) steadily decline.

This study resonated with us for other reasons as well. The researchers found that social engagement with teachers and peers, as well as students’ cognitive inquisitiveness, played a significant role (30 percent of the variance in GPA) in achievement. The good news is that we as teachers have the means to promote the mental and relational connections necessary for learning. Our most effective tool is the talk we foster in our classrooms. We’re not referring to the social chatter of peers making plans for after school (it seems as though that blossoms almost without our help!), nor do we mean the sound of our own voices filling the air. We mean the learning discourse—the backand-forth discussion of ideas that deepens understanding.

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