Welcome to our last week of the Back to School in a flash link-up! This weeks topic is all about student engagement and what I do in my class to build classroom community.
I like to use Collaborative Conversations to bring my class together! In the beginning of the year most my students tend to be really shy and unexperienced in sharing their ideas and opinions. As a matter of fact, last year I noticed that for a handful of them, making decisions and using evidence to back up their positions was very difficult. So how did I go about training my third graders in the art of collaborative conversations?
I began by teaching them a set of rules which we posted up in the classroom for easy reference. (Click on the picture below to download a free copy of the poster).
As part of the rules we learned about the importance of making eye contact when speaking or listening to others. We talked about staying on topic. We discussed the importance of backing up your argument with evidence and always being respectful. We spoke about how to respond to speakers by asking questions or making comments.
Throughout the year I also introduced sentence starters which we have displayed above the white board. We started off by learning when and how to use “I agree…” and “I disagree” in discussions. Whenever I felt the majority of the class had become comfortable with those 2 stems, we added on another. This process continued throughout the year until we had covered all 13 stems. In the beginning of the year students referred to them frequently. By the end, many of them had mastered a quite a few. (You can find these posters here and here.)
Towards the end of the year I began implementing a rubric to assess how well my students were progressing. Scoring them was pretty simple since my main focus was on eye contact, respect, staying on topic, supporting evidence, and participation. These were the 5 main skills that we focused on throughout the school year.