Tips & Tricks

{Week 4} BTS in a Flash! Student Engagement

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.

This rubric can also be downloaded for free by clicking here or on the picture above.
I must say that by the end of the year my students had become quite comfortable with Collaborative Conversations. They were now debating whether or not homework was necessary and whether or not the 5 second rule was fact or fiction. Many times they came up with topics of discussion on their own after reading an article in our Storyworks Magazine. These conversations they were holding on their own was encouraging them to find evidence (key for common core) to justify their arguments, and keeping them ENGAGED! They learned to actively listen to their peers, to respond eloquently by using key phrases, they learned to be patient (a task that proved more difficult for some than others), they learned to maintain eye contact and to respect others opinions even if they differed from their own. They learned an important life long skill that they became really good at.
It was amazing to see how engaged students became and how much they enjoyed working and sharing ideas with their peers.
It’s your turn not to link up and share how you keep your students engaged!

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  • Reply
    Jamie Sears
    August 16, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    It is so important to teach kids how tom talk with one another! Thanks for participating in the link up.
    Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher

  • Reply
    August 16, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Love the talk time grid!

  • Reply
    Fancy Free in 4th
    August 16, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    I shared about Collaborative Conversations too! It has been really beneficial for my ELLs. I love the grid. Thanks for linking up and creating all of these amazing iteach communities!
    Fancy Free in Fourth

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