Do you ever feel like whacking yourself on the side of the head and saying, “Why didn’t I think of this before?”
While sitting on a chair reading aloud to the class one day with all the students traditionally huddled on the floor at my feet I noticed something. All the interesting exchanges were happening between a student and me, the teacher. It was like a game of ping pong and I was always hitting the ball.
I was having a great book discussion! But what were most of the students doing when they weren’t talking to me? They were picking at their shoes, trying to get a friend’s attention, staring blankly ahead. No engagement. They were waiting patiently for us to finish our conversation.
More than just Reading Aloud
From that day on we decided to sit in a circle when I read aloud. Reactions to the story, comments, questions, and discussions are now directed at each other not at me. Of course, I can’t help but jump in occasionally when I feel like I can’t resist!
Now our ‘ping-pong exchange’ sounds more like this:
What have I noticed?
- students are expected to listen to and respond to each other, and they do
- students answer each other’s questions, disagree with each other, build upon each other’s predictions
- students work cooperatively to construct meaning from the story
- students govern themselves, reminding each other to be respectful
- students feel like they have an equitable learning community where the voices of the students and teachers are equal
- students take ownership and drive the discussions, allowing them to practice critical and creative thinking skills.
Very much like a Socratic Circle.