first quarter of this past year,
my goal for one of my seventh grade classes
was to improve our whole-group conversations. I could see in early September
that they were my chattiest group, not accustomed to raising hands and waiting to
speak: they just let it fly! To better manage conversations, I taught students
structures for participating. The structures helped students stay focused about
how they spoke instead of becoming sloppy or unmannerly.
Tip to Try
Foundation is in place
I was confident that I
could tackle this challenge.
The Developmental Designs approach has been in place
in our school and in my classroom for
many years, so my
students were already familiar with modeling, take a break,
the Circle of Power and Respect advisory meeting, creating rules, and more. Each
week, I taught a new way to participate in whole-group conversations that would
fit well with something
I was teaching. When we were reading a story aloud, I
taught the strategies Cold Call with Phone a Friend and Pulling Sticks.
We used Talking Piece during circle seating class discussions.
Conversation management tools
During two whole-group
conversations discussing a piece of literature, I kept track of interruptions.
27 interruptions in 15 minutes
5 interruptions in 15 minutes
I was driven to tamp down on the interruptions, which often came from
extroverted students and/or students who lacked self control. I now see that a
huge side benefit of using the various ways of managing conversation is that it
greatly increases participation of the introverts. When I use strategies such
as Walk and Talk, Elbow Buddies, and Clock Partners, everyone participates to
roughly the same degree. Other strategies, like Talking Piece, Popcorn Share,
and Kitchen Table Talk, encourage well mannered volunteers to join in.
Lots of strategies for lots of
Like other Developmental Designs practices, it will take time for
managing conversations to become embedded. I will continue to teach and perfect
different ways to manage conversations in all of my classes.
Connie Leuenberger teaches seventh graders at Edgartown School in