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Are Your Conversations ... Grand?

Are your classroom conversations grand?  One of our last PLC (professional learning community) meetings was centred around Grand Conversations.  A grand conversation provides "students with organized and facilitated time to talk about and listen actively to one another’s thinking, justify their thinking to others and reflect on what they are learning.  These organized – and safe – discussion forums encourage students to share and challenge ideas.  Students find that their voices, ideas and experiences are valued and contribute
directly to the learning."  This is what we all want in our classrooms, right?

To read more about grand conversations, check out these sites:



The grade 7/8 teacher and myself (we are the only two junior / intermediate teachers in my small school) decided to take on grand conversations as our current collaborative inquiry project.  We think we're already doing a decent job of providing this opportunity for our students, but with more attention and reflections, it can only get better.  So, over the last two days my class has been building our learning goals and success criteria for grand conversations.

I started by posting our learning goals for grand conversations (taken from the main expectations from our Oral Communication curriculum).


We started out defining what we thought a good conversation looked / sounded like.  I did a placemat activity starting with two students working on the sheet.  When the pair was finished, they joined with another pair, and shared and added to their placemat.

















We then watched a few videos of grand conversations on youtube (I just searched for grand conversations).  My students thought that they are probably already doing a good job of the speaking part, but could definitely improve on the active listening part ... hmmmm - I concur!  Following the video we brainstormed a list of criteria that would be essential to a successful grand conversation.  They came up with so many good ideas!

With the time up, I promised we'd turn that list into a set of success criteria in the next lesson (today's lesson).

And then, when I got home, one of my favourite sights was on the door ... the delivery sticker saying I had an Amazon package waiting for me at the post office.  YIPPEE!!!  So, I packed up the three kids (again), and headed off to retrieve my treasures.

I was so excited to get my newest teacher resource (you've perhaps remembered my book addiction???) - Comprehension and Collaboration:  Inquiry Circles in Action, by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels (you can see the link at the bottom of my page).  I had seen this book a few months ago (maybe in the summer), but after our PD session on grand conversations, I ordered it thinking it would be a perfect fit.  And I didn't have to get far into the book to reinforce my perfect fit belief.  Inside the front cover was a set of seven short points - essential characteristics for collaboration.  I kept thinking - this is EXACTLY what we were discussing today.  Each one of the points related back to our brainstorm session earlier that day.

Today at the beginning of language class, I shared this book with my class (I LOVE sharing my excitement for books with my students - not just excitement over books at their level, but books at my level, too.  They need to see life-long learning modelled).  We read over the seven points in the front cover and the class remarked how similar they were to the points we brainstormed.  So ... we decided to use these seven points for our success criteria for grand conversations.  Easy peasy!

The students copied this chart into their reading notebooks, and I gave each one of them a sticky note to reflect on which one of these success criteria they feel will be a challenge to them.  LOVED their insights!

I'm so excited to keep going in this direction ... I have a feeling I'll have some GREAT things to share with you during this collaborative process.


Happy Wednesday!!!

21 comments:

  1. ManOhManOhMan.
    I just want to be a sponge in your classroom.
    I want to learn from you.
    And then I want to be so excited about learning that I will forge ahead and learn even more!
    (Right now eating ice cream and taking a nap sound a bit more preferable...)
    It is just so INSPIRING to "hear" your enthusiasm and commitment as you talk about your work.
    I'm going back to read this whole post again.
    And I have a sneaking suspicion that Amazon "one click" is going to spring into action soon...
    : )

    Kim
    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

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    1. How do you know EXACTLY what to say every single time??? Sponge or no sponge, I'd take you any day!!! (but maybe you could bring that ice cream ... and maybe watch my girls for a bit so I could squeeze in a nap, too). I haven't gotten too far in the book yet, but I think I'm really going to like it. The second half of the book has a lot of examples for inquiry circles in the classroom - some of it seems to be a bit of "in the perfect classroom this would work", but I'm sure the ideas are adaptable to fit in our not-so perfect classrooms.

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  2. So glad you posted about this! We start grand conversations in Kindergarten in my school and I think they are so powerful--even with 5 year olds! By the time they get to 5th grade, their ability to think critically, expand their thinking, and most importantly verbalize it intelligently is truly amazing. I am in awe of the communicators we are developing with the practice of grand conversations. Thanks for the Stephanie Harvey suggestion! I am adding it to my wishlist!

    Angela

    Primarily Primary

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    1. WOW, Angela! I can only imagine how fabulous the older students must be at that. My students are great talkers, but usually only when they're responding to questions. It is my hope that with more structure in the teaching part of grand conversations, and modelling, and reflecting, we'll see some great improvements ... and hear some great conversations!

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  3. You are amazing. Seriously...amazing. I LOVE this idea (I think I use the word love every.single.time I read your blog) I am going to have to take serious notes on this one and get it all worked out so I can copy...I mean, use this in my classroom

    ~Stephanie
    Teaching in Room 6

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    1. Thank-you SO much, Stephanie! It really seems to be working - we had a GREAT grand conversation today in our math lesson - and I have a debate planned for tomorrow to support our persuasive writing. BTW - I LOVE the word LOVE!!!

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  4. As always, you refresh my thinking! I have the book too. I think you need to start a book club online with us! (I know you have nothing else on your plate! LOL) I enjoy your blog and it inspires me to do new things. It is great to hear another Canadian point of view!

    I think you need to host a teacher workshop in the summmer! LOL Come to Niagara and visit!

    Jen

    jen.bellinger@hotmail.com

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    1. Thank-you so much, Jen! Ummmm ... yeah ... with three little kids at home, I have a ton of spare time in the summer ;). I got through a bit more of the book today - and hoping to squeeze in some more reading time tonight. I'm trying to be good and read the book properly, but I really want to skip to the last part to read about the inquiry circle projects.

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  5. We just cover this in our Board forum! Love that their is another Canadian Blog out there! Collaborative talk is sooooo important. I teach grade one and began an Oral langauage inquiry project last year, and I can''t say enough about how important it is for students to talk with each other. It's magic! Thanks for sharing. Stop by and visit me some time....

    Kim
    http://gradeonedoodlebugs-kim.blogspot.ca/

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    1. Thank-you so much, Kim! There aren't nearly enough of us Canadian bloggers ... everyone else must be out enjoying nature ;). I'm on way to visit your blog.

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  6. I totally agree that there isn't enough Canadian blogs but you certainly set a great example of what an excellent blog is. I learned about grand conversations during inservices this past summer . Will have to look into getting the book. thanks for sharing from a fellow Canadian from Hamilton, Ontario mary at apopovic@primus.ca

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    1. Thank-you so much, Mary!!! I'm really liking what they're doing to my classroom ... and my students are starting to be a little more respectful to each other - YAY! BTW - I lived in Hamilton for a year - did Teacher's College at the Hamilton campus of Brock University - so I did all my practice teaching around Hamilton.

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  8. I would like to just ditto everyone on 1. LOVE, love, love your blog and ideas!!! Thank you soooo much for sharing! I wish I could teach with you! Don't you just love when a book "magically arrives, jumps off the shelf etc.," at just the right time! Even better when it adds to confirms the direction you are heading. I too, believe in grand conversations and try to encourage them in my classroom but I appreciated your demonstration to go back and rethink and evaluate again to make it better. Thanks for being willing to share ideas we can use on the stop and I can't wait to read back through your blogs during the summer to see what I can "borrow" for my kiddos next year!!
    Tammy
    ttrombley@davisonschools.org

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  9. wow i am impressed that you know where hamilton is. i hope you enjoyed your stay here, it is a great city. you have so many great ideas so thanks for sharing. i'm sure i'll talk to you soon. mary at apopovic@primus.ca

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  10. I love this Jen!!! Def. a great activity for the beginning of the school year next year to help set the tone.
    You've been pinned in my BTS board :)

    ❤ Mor Zrihen from...
    A Teacher's Treasure
    Teaching Treasures Shop

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  11. Jen, I am soooo inspired by your ideas and creativity. I am a veteran elementary teacher of 32 years and I can't get enough of your blog!! I have started doing many, many more foldables in class because of you. It is exciting for me and my kids get that fresh, creative activity. I have done "math notes" for years, but my student's notes are now including the math foldables, due to your inspiration! I am thrilled you share your fabulous teaching ideas with us out here in Internetville. Please keep sharing, you are helping many of us become better teachers! Gayle from Chico

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    1. Thank-you so much, Gayle! I hope after 32 years I'm still looking for new ideas to bring to my students. You must be a wonderful teacher - such an inspiration!

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  12. This is so incredibly helpful. I did it with my 7th grade students today and then they discussed the anticipation guide for Julius Caesar. They had productive and meaningful conversations and then the whole class had a meaningful discussion. Wow! You are an inspiration Jen! Thank you.

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    1. Thank-you so much! I'm so glad you had success with this lesson. My class has a number of behaviour issues this year, so it's so important to "set the ground rules" and keep going back to the rules.

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  13. I just love your blog!!! You have such wonderful creative ideas! Thank you for sharing!!_

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