Quote from 5th Grade Language Arts Student: “The book was only so-so, but our conversations about it were awesome.”

As a reminder from the last post: the five core conversational skills were:

Elaborate and clarify

Support ideas with examples

Build on and/or challenge a partner’s idea


Synthesize conversation points

The introduction to this chapter cautions that these are not separate skills taught in isolation.  Rather they are to be integrated into the content being taught, as well as being integrated with the other skills.

As noted earlier, this text offers lots of good suggestions for HOW to teach these skills.  First an example of a technique for Synthesizing Conversation Points.

Parking/Promoting/Pruning Ideas.  Students start by “writing down ideas (or parking them) for later use.  Then they Promote ideas they may be reluctant to share after you give examples of ideas that originally seen as “crazy” – airplanes, cell phones, moon shots…  And then student “prune” the ideas—both their own and others—by being conscious of which ideas further the conversation and which ideas do not. (p. 55)

The authors also suggest mini lessons on conversations that allow to students to practice:

Analyzing good conversations via a fishbowl technique.

Student modeling of good conversational skills, perhaps using posters or checklists.

Scaffolding by modeling think-alouds, conversations with students and analysis of written conversations.