Friday, October 4, 2013

Thursday Throw Down: Dipping into Socratic Seminar

Ed.  I totally missed Thursday Throw Down at Erin's I'm Lovin' I'm linking now.  She has a great lesson on beefing up your students' responses to literature. Check it out if you haven't already!

It's Friday, and I'm tired, but all is well!  Our foray into the Socratic Seminar with my 7th graders (for the first time this year) went well, and the picture book project is moving right along!

Tuesday, I went over a quick Socratic Seminar PPT, and stressed that the main goal of our Socratic discussions this year will be to help them understand the text more deeply, to strengthen their voices, and to help them work on backing up their arguments/reasoning. After the PPT, I handed out the seminar preparation sheet.  We had read Salvador, Late or Early as well as the article on siblings babysitting their siblings, and our main questions had to do with whether or not teens should baby sit their siblings and if they do, whether they should expect to get paid or if they should do it because it is a part of their family duties.  

Wednesday, I perused the PPT again, and then talked about how we would be working on language to use during a discussion.  I handed our quarter sheets with discussion starters for them to look at.

Then I had them pair up, choose one person to be an A and the other to be a B.  The As had to sit in the inner ring in a circle, and the Bs had to sit on the desks/chairs behind them in a second circle.

First, I decided to have a NONSENSE discussion, first and foremost so the kids had some experience sitting in the circle and HEARING their own voices. Students in the inner ring chose a discussion starter (I agree with what _____ had to say. I also think.....; Can you tell me more about that, ___?; I understand what you are saying, but I also think....; etc.) I chose a volunteer to start, and s/he said a starter with another kid's name (from the inner ring only) in it, in effect "tossing" the conversation to that student. That student chose a discussion starter to read and did the same thing, so the conversation sounded something like:

"I agree with Lauren." "Great, Alex! Can you tell me a little more about your idea, Sam?" "Sure Mahammed. I also think that..., Siri."  "When I read made me think of..., Brady."  "I was surprised to read that....Sydney." and on and on.  

After they finished the first time around, I opened the floor to the outside ring and asked them what tips they would give to the speakers in the inner ring.  Each class made their own list, and the lists usually included something like 1) Speak loudly; 2) Make eye contact; 3) Be ready to go when someone calls on you; 4) Sit up; 5) Learn the names of other kids so you know who you are picking.  After making the list, I challenged the inner ring to do it again, keeping the tips in mind as well as trying to go faster.  They usually went a little more slowly, but that's ok...practice time :)

After the inner ring's second try, I had the outer ring do the same thing.  When they were done with their first round, I opened the floor to the inner ring and asked them for traits of a good/active listener.  We made a list for each class, and most of the lists included things like 1) Listen up; 2) Don't have side conversations; 3) Don't fidget.  And three classes added: "Don't read a book while the conversation is going on!!!" They got irritated when several classmates thought that would be an appropriate thing to do :)

The outer ring then got their second chance at the nonsense discussion after a reminder of the tips they gave on being a good speaker.

After that, the inner ring had a chance for a guided try at their first Socratic discussion.  I always give the first three speakers extra credit, and the first speaker has the opportunity to choose the question to focus on. Even though this one wasn't for points, I still had good volunteers in each class who wanted to start first. Working off of their yellow discussion preparation sheets, they got a taste of their first in depth Soc Sem discussion!  It always takes some time for them to get used to not raising their hands but reading other kids' body language for cues as to when to jump in instead.  I did some coaching with using a discussion starter + their opinion + supporting textual evidence, and overall, it went well.  Carly, Robin, and I are so excited to be starting the year with a dip into this type of class activity, and I am really looking forward to having them know the routine much earlier this year.

Listening to students engage in a Socratic discussion always reaffirms my belief that 7th graders have a lot to say and have some pretty awesome thoughts about the world.  I'm excited to see how they progress.

Thursday, we started in with the final activity of our unit, a picture book project. The goal with our first unit (Teaching the skills and routines of 7th grade English using short texts as the vehicle) was just teach the kids the skills and routines they will be using all year so they have a bit of experience with them before we run into them again.

This summer when we were planning and were thinking about how to assess this unit, we knew that a regular test wouldn't cut it.  We thought it would be awesome if they could demonstrate their knowledge of the skills and routines using a picture book.

So Thursday, we began.  First I handed out the directions sheet.  I gave them two minutes to very quietly read over the sheet on their own.  Their task was to star what looked important and mark what they had question about. Then, when it looked like most were done, I had them pair and share....telling their neighbor what the project was about.  After that, I opened it up whole class and asked what the project was about, fielding questions as well.  At that point, I did a quick run-through of the major points.

After that, I handed out the picture book preview sheet.  The books we chose to offer (and then sent for from the other libraries around the district) are:
   The Day the Babies Crawled Away by Peggy Rathmann
   Night Noises by Mem Fox
   The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey
   A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon
   Hello, Harvest Moon by Ralph Fletcher
   What You Know First by Patricia MacLaughlin
   Night of the Gargoyles by Eve Bunting
   Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by (don't remember off the top!)
   River Friendly, River Wild by Jane Kurtz
   Great Northern Diver, the Loon by Barbara Esbensen

I went through the blurbs on the sheet, holding up the book as I went and discussing quickly lexile level and the focus for each text. (Each text has a skill focus and a routine focus, ex: Those who chose A Bad Case of the Stripes focus on imagery as the skill and Socratic Seminar--writing a "big picture" question and writing talking points (pros and cons) about it.)

Then, I had them self-select their own groups of 3-4 kids (some went with pairs), talk over their choices, and finally come up to the front to pick a book or two that they were considering.  

Once they got their book choice solidified, I wrote down their names and choice, and they went to the hall, the computer area, outside my room, or inside my room to read the book.  And that's all that fit into Thursday!!

Today, I walked them through getting a Skills page and a Vocabulary page in their notebooks (these pages will be graded, and I wanted them to have the date, the page, the entry in their table of contents, a heading and sub heading before they went into group time.)  Then they reconvened in their groups and worked on their skill work and vocab work. Each group is different in terms of skill.  They can come up with something on their own or take the direction from the explanation sheet.  For example, for sensory language, they can do what we did when we read Have You Been to the Beach Lately? by Ralph Fletcher, which was tracing their hand, writing the five sense words on the finger tips, and writing in things the characters saw, smelled, tasted, heard, etc.  For connections, they can either list and label connections they made while reading or make a three column chart, etc.  If their focus was connection for the book they picked but they weren't able to make a whole page of meaningful connections, I had them fill the rest of the page with their choice of inferences, a summary, etc.

For the vocab work, they need to select five strong vocab words from the book they have, define them, and look up two synonyms.  

Most groups were pretty on track today.  Some, especially toward the end of the day when we have our co-taughts, were fallin' off the tracks, especially since it was a dreary Friday with the big rivalry football game looming in the evening!!

Monday, I'll go over the "routines" options...things like writing questions that follow Costa's Levels of Questioning, writing a big overarching question that applies to the text and coming up with talking points, completing a one pager...

Tuesday, we'll play it by ear to see if they are done, and then I'll have them share a synopsis of the book as well as the work they did with another group.  After that on Tuesday, we should be starting in with notes on the Elements of Fiction!! Back to some semi-regular territory!

Well, I better get off the computer and into bed.  My sister is getting married tomorrow, so we have a big day ahead!

I'll leave you with some photos of kids working on the picture book project!

Have a great weekend,


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