I was working with 3rd grade. The plan was to have them respond to writing they had done Friday and give each other feedback, so we could rewrite and raise quality. Was it ever not working. … most had no clue how to do this! PLUS, 1/3 of the kids had written in their response something to the effect of “I think Ms. White showed us this because she wanted us to . .. .” They clearly were trying to write what they thought I wanted them to write.
I overheard a high level conversation going on in one group, so I gathered the others around that table in a fishbowl method and asked the three to relive their conversation. They were able to do so (challenging each other’s content, NOT talking to mechanics), and we started a conversation about my expectations for them in group work (This is only the 4th day with this group.)
Bottom line is I told them I did not want them playing school–did not want them to sit down, shut up and listen–did not want them playing the game of “guess the answer I have in my head.” I wanted them to think, to challenge, to ask questions, to be the highest level of thinkers they could be–and to constantly push themselves to be smarter. I said I would ask them questions, but they were NOT to assume I had an answer I wanted them to guess. . and they started talking about how teachers respond in other classes. They said some teachers yell when you get a wrong answer.
We talked about how intense I am–that sometimes I may sound mad or upset when I really am not, I’m just thinking seriously and intensely about what I’m trying to say. Several kids said I never even raise my voice. (That’s not true, but I think because they trust me, they don’t hear it.)
Kids said other teachers, if they (the kids) don’t respond as the teacher wants, say, “True, but what else?” or say, “Okay” and then call on another kid. They don’t get the chance to re-hypothesize or think about it more deeply, or refine their answer OR thinking…
Sammie said that what I do is say, “Okay” and then ask something else or give them more information to help them think harder and give them another chance to respond. I explained to her that I did that deliberately, that it was a teaching strategy called “scaffolding” which supports students learning for themselves. Several commented that they like that I do not go to another kid for the “real” answer–that I give them a chance to figure it out. (I reiterated that was scaffolding and said again that’s what I was trying to do.)
N’s summary of our conversation was that I do things to help them get to what I call “the AH-HA moment.” (Obviously he’s listened to me before!)
‘Bout half of this class has had me a LOT before. . ’bout half was reasonably new to me this year. They were all participating in sharing and asking and talking when we gathered round the group modeling high level thinking.
Looking back, with this conversation ending our class, I guess maybe something DID work… I hope they’ll come back tomorrow looking for deep thinking. We’ll see.