"A dialogic classroom is one in which there are lots of open questions and extended exchanges among students....classrooms in which their are multiple interpretations and perspectives." Peter Johnston (p. 52)
For the month of July a group of educators have been discussing Peter Johnston's book, Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives (Stenhouse, 2012). At the bottom of this post you will find many important links related to our 2nd annual #cyberPD event. Today's final reflection is hosted by Carol Wilcox at Carol's Corner. Stop by to read, comment, and join the conversation.
I've been trying to wrap my head around all of the thinking in Johnston's book. Thankfully, stopping by blogs of colleagues in this event has helped. These blogs, however, have also made it necessary to pause to consider different perspectives and new thinking. As I've been thinking about this post I've been asking myself a lot of questions:
- What key ideas am I taking away from this book?
- Can I get what I have learned down to one important word?
- What teaching behaviors will I try to unlearn?
- What changes will I make as a result of this conversation?
- How will our learning community look different this year?
Listening --- Really Listening
Somewhere in my archives of pictures I have a photograph of a chart I made with one of my kindergarten classes years ago. It was a chart about listening. It is probably better that I cannot locate it, but it had a huge picture of a student sitting criss-cross on the carpet, hands in lap, eyes forward and attentive. It said something like "listening is" and then listed a few characteristics: "Eyes on the person talking, hands in lap, sitting criss-cross, mouth closed, and ears listening." It might not have been that extreme, but it likely was.
Maybe this is all I need to do; change the way I talk with students about listening to one another. It isn't the listening I'm so concerned with, though it is essential to the larger goal, it is the learning that happens each day in our classroom. This year I really want students to understand all they can learn from one another. I'm hoping to take myself out of the equation a little more.
- Build learning conversations in share circles. Johnston says, "We develop a metalanguage for thinking about group processes and establishing their significance as something to attend to. (p. 107)" Perhaps we could say: "I learned ____ from ____ when they shared ____., I was able to think about ____ because I/we _____."
- Help students to see the power of learning together. Johnston says, "A group can have intelligence that can be more (or less) than the sum of its members' intelligence. Group intelligence is related to...the average social sensitivity of the group and how evenly the group distributes conversational turns. (p. 96)" Perhaps we could say: "____ tell ____ how you did that., When we started thinking we thought ____, but when we talked together we realized _____., Make sure each person has a chance to say something so that you're sure you don't miss different ways of thinking about it."
- Learn to recognize when our thinking is changed by someone else. Johnston says, "Listening is the foundation of a conversation and it requires that we are open to the possibility of changing our thinking. (p. 102)" Perhaps we could say: "____ made me think about _____., When I heard _____ I thought _____., I never thought about it like that before."
- Know it's ok to disagree (and how to do that with kindness). Johnston says, "We expect to have more interesting and powerful conversations when people bring different perspectives and when they disagree. (p. 103)" Perhaps we could say: "Now I'm wondering..., Could...., Do you think ____?, What do you think about what ____ said?, It looks like you might have another idea."
- Learn to rephrase the thinking of friends: This is likely going to be something I'm going to have to work to change. Instead of rephrasing students' comments, have other learners talk about what they heard or find other ways to say the same thing. Perhaps we could say: "Can you explain what ____ said in another way _____?, Would you tell _____ what ____ means? Repeat what ____ said so we can think about it (p. 27)."
- Develop skills to be flexible thinkers who build on the thinking of friends. Johnston says, "They (students) understand that knowledge is constructed, that it is influenced by one's perspective and by different contexts, and that we should expect and value different perspectives because they help to expand our understanding." (p. 57) Perhaps we could say: "Is there another way to do that?, Is there a different way to think about that?"
- Wonder together: Johnston says, "It is the perception of uncertainty that enables dialogue." (p. 59) I'm hoping we can set the tone to get comfortable with the unknown, the uncertain, and the unanswerable. "I wonder..., What are you wondering? When I heard ____ I wondered ____., I can't figure out ____, what do you think?"
This is just my beginning thinking, and it may be a little soon to just put it out in the world. Thankfully I know you will all consider it thoughtfully. So what do you think? Are there other aspects I should consider? Different language? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.
As I read Peter's book and visited blogs I began to consider picture books that might support the community conversations I have to have. Here are two Listmania lists I have started thanks to this thinking and some of the posts from our #cyberPD community. These are growing lists. I can't wait to get into my classroom to get my hands on my picture books so I can add more titles. Let me know, if you have titles to add.
Paired Readings/Professional Books for Continued Conversation
- Choice Words by Peter Johnston
- Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies by Sherry Parish
- Mindset by Carol Dweck
- Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery by Kathleen Cushman
- Making Learning Whole by David Perkins
- Stop by our #cyberPD collection of posts from the entire event at Jog the Web. Click on the left table of contents to view pages in the Jog. If you'd like to go to the page, just click the "show url" button at the top.
- July 11th: Opening Minds Chapters 1-3. Discussion hosted here at Reflect and Refine.
- July 18th: Opening Minds Chapters 4-6. Hosted by Jill Fisch at My Primary Passion.
- July 25th: Opening Minds Chapters 7-9. Hosted by Laura Komos at Our Camp Read-A-Lot.
- July 26th: Archive of #cyberPD Twitter Chat with Peter Johnston.
- Opening Minds: Words to Live By a cooperative Google.doc started by Julie Balen.
- #cyberPD Wallwisher
- Professional Learning Conversations: #cyberPD: An event post hosted by International Reading Association's Engage / Teacher to Teacher Blog.
- Twitter List of #cyberPD Participants
A huge thank you to Laura Komos and Jill Fisch for helping to create such an amazing event. Thanks to all of the #cyberPD community for sharing your thinking, making me reflect, creating new resources, and collaborating in this professional learning conversation. I know I will be able to continue to count on all of you to help me in my learning journey.