Academic journal article Science and Children

Cultivating Classroom Conversations

Academic journal article Science and Children

Cultivating Classroom Conversations

Article excerpt

"Teaching is listening; learning is talking."  Deborah Meier, educational reform advocate 

Let's face it; preschool and elementary classrooms can be noisy. Yet in a productively noisy classroom, students can be sharing information, evaluating ideas, and expressing views with evidence. When we listen to student conversations, we have a window into their thinking and knowing what students think can help determine their needs and advance them toward deeper understandings.

Classroom talk has changed over the last 200 years. In classrooms of the 1800s, students were readily punished for speaking during class, even if their discussions were on topic! Over time, teachers have realized the benefits of student talk, yet often continued to use the same questioning strategies with an emphasis on too much teacher talk time. In such classrooms, students were not encouraged to share ideas with each other, and the focus was often on a preconceived "correct" answer.

More recently, teachers have been embracing the idea of student-led discussions through content-focused conversations. With increased student talk-time, teachers have been able to formatively assess, provide differentiation, and discover student misconceptions. Cultivating conversations requires the development of a consistent structure and practice with attention to developing discerning listeners: students and teachers alike. …

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