Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ask, don't answer

Another inspiring quote from class: 
"Raise your hand to ask a question, not to answer a question."

We as educators find it difficult to let our students guide conversation, and I believe it to be imperative. As it pertains to instruction, one of the most recent tools that I have developed to encourage students to take charge of their own learning is the Questions for Student-Led Conversations folder. Literary conversation is a dying art in the digital age, and it is an especially challenging task for developing learners. And yet, the importance of being able to have a meaningful and productive conversation about texts of all genres is of growing importance. As children make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn, they begin to have control over the mechanics and functions of fluent and prosodic reading, but they often struggle to articulate developed and substantial thoughts and ideas about texts. Often their conversations resemble very simple and surface statements: “I like this book because…,” or, “I think spiders are gross.” Granted, there are a handful of students that construct deeper meaning without instructional influence, but in the primary years this is a skill that requires development with teacher support. The trick as an educator is not to fall into the trap of ask and answer. Teachers just love to ask the questions, and they love to give the answers!!! Their intentions are good, but because they lack ingenuity and time, they find it easier to ask and answer. In response to this pitfall, and in response to the Common Core’s attention to student-directed questioning, I designed a tool so that students can learn to generate conversations using questions of substance and increasing complexity. Simultaneously, I teach them what it means to listen, really listen, to one another; to engage and to mean it. From the outside looking in that sounds like a menial task, but I assure you the process of teaching kids to listen and ask questions is arduous and time-consuming....and yet entirely worth it.

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