Mr. Chandler shared how to have an Academic ConverStation! He got the ides from the teaching channel website, which he highly recommends. This system allows students to chunk their readings (a close reading strategy) by pausing to discuss and then share out. At the end of each ConverStation question, only ONE person moves to the next station for question 2. Mr. Chandler points out that this is a great system because it allows students to populate the ideas from each group throughout the class, and gives students something to say that no one else in their circle has heard since many issues reappear from question to question.
Both the Science and Math departments talked about using Envelope Pull Questions as a conversation starter for their topics. Mr. Kollar pointed out that many students in his class had NEVER had to explain math to another person before that exercise. He recommends the method because students tire of listening to a teacher and enjoy hearing from each other and listen more closely that way. He recommends the structure employed by Ms. Adornato and Beckham for their science lesson you see on the green sheets in these photos) Ms. Beckham and Adornato say that questions that involve some gray area are essential - ones that can be debated. They note that students who thought they could use common sense to "fake" a response without having read were held accountable by classmates who corrected them by referring back to counterintuitive facts listed in the text.
Until I heard Ms. Thornburg, I always thought alpha boxes were very low level and just a step away from busywork. But Ms. Thornburg shared with us how it enhances her lessons in several ways: She begins a unit by having students fill an alphabox. The words they generate function like a pretest, giving her an idea of what they know. Then they watch a video or read a reading from a DBQ set, pausing after each to fill in even more blanks in the alpha box. Through this strategy, students pay closer attention as they listen and look for words they "need." Then they have a class discussion and explain to each other what they chose. As a bonus, the alphabetical constraint forces creative divergent thought (Ms. Thornburg mentioned students comming up with "eXcommunication for the X in the alphabox and with "New Ideas" for the I. Who would have thought that you should give students boxes to get them out of the box?! Great job, Humanities folks (and this works with any content area) After the conversation, students used their alphabox full of vocabulary as notes with ready made ideas for writing.
This blog is a compendium of District and Piedmont -specific PD opportunities, trainings, and notes.