Written by Steve Peterson (@insidethedog), DMS 5th-grade Teacher
I am excited to write a post for the new DMS blog. I am hoping that it will be a way to stay in touch about our teaching and to support each other as we work through the changes we make in our classrooms.
This year I’ve been working with instructional coach, Andrew Ellingson, to begin a Socratic Seminar project in my fifth-grade classroom. (Last year, I reflected on a first draft of that project on my teacher blog.)
Beginning a new round of student-led discussion is a big undertaking, especially early in the school year. But I know from last year that having students lead discussions in an orderly manner pays great dividends throughout the year.
Frankly, I have been scared to try a student-led discussion this year. The students are different than last year’s students. I am beginning earlier in the year, at a time our classroom community is just beginning to gel. Class sizes are larger, too, which makes management a bit more difficult. Needless to say, I would have found many opportunities to put off the work I need to do to make it happen if it weren’t for my regularly scheduled meetings with Andrew.
In those meetings, Andrew has helped me think through the steps to scaffold student-led discussions. Last week we tried our first one, which I video-recorded. I shared these videos with Andrew and now we have plans to review them and plan for the next phases of the project. It feels great to have his support and gentle affirmation of the work that I am doing. I find myself looking forward to our meetings and his insights about how I might solve the problems that I encounter in such a complex project.
To close, I wanted to share one very concrete early benefit of working with Andrew. I asked Andrew to help develop some charts of statement stems designed to scaffold students’ text-based academic conversations. I told him that I wanted to pair the charts with a visual metaphor of some sort so the kids could develop a deeper sense of these kinds of more abstract conversation moves. The metaphor would serve both as a conversation piece and a visual reminder as the students were learning how to talk to each other.
Wow! It sure was fun to see how Andrew took to that task! You can see some of the work we have done below. If you are interested, I shared a folder with the posters at this link .
Have you tried Socratic Seminars? Are you thinking of doing more student-led discussions in your class? Let’s talk!
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