Every day before walking into her classroom, the teacher says to her Ego, “I’m sorry, but I must leave you behind.” Thus, Ego waits outside the school, apart from the teacher, to return to its owner at the end of the day. This separation of teacher and Ego allows for the teacher to focus on what her students desire, need, and are interested in learning each day.
There is no spotlight following the teacher around, no applause for a lecture well done, and no reward for putting her students on pedestals rather than herself. This lack of focus upon oneself allows the teacher to ask:
- What can I ask the students to do that will show me they know X?
- How can I structure this experience so that students will collaborate and communicate effectively?
- How will I support students who need assistance with this experience?
Through my own experience with a month-long case of laryngitis and experiments with technology, I was able to remove Ego from the equation of teaching + learning to create more student-centered, discourse-centric lessons. Our school has a current goal of integrating more academic conversations within lessons. We define academic conversations as peer-to-peer discourse utilizing language, which is centered around academic content.
Previously, our administration had solely shown us ways to get students talking aloud. However, seeing as I myself was incapable of speaking aloud, I searched for ways to utilize technology to get students writing to discuss academic content. With the platform of Google Classroom, students were able to discuss the novel “Under A War Torn Sky“ using rooms I had set up for each group through Todays Meet. Students were supplied with sentence frames for questions and answers, so that they could utilize academic language in their online conversations. (See full lesson plan here.)
The benefits my students and I encountered:
- Students could participate in the activity from wherever they sat in the room (and in the case of a sick student—from home)
- Students had processing time, reflecting on how they would like to “say” their idea while typing
- As a teacher, I was able to interact in all discussions simultaneously, and I had “recordings” of all my students’ discussions to review after class for assessment purposes
The obstacles my students and I encountered:
- Groups of four turned out to be too large; students experienced having to delete what they were about to say because someone else just said it
- (Solution: Partners or groups of 3)
- Students who lacked strong typing skills usually were less able to contribute as much to the conversation
- (Solution: Practice, practice, practice)
- With multiple tabs open, it was hard for some to keep track of sentence frames and the discussion at hand
- (Solution: Consider creating Academic Conversation Cards with sentence frames for students to reference during their online conversation)
Todays Meet was just one way I have experimented with integrating peer-to-peer discourse in class, but I believe it proved to be a very transformative pedagogical approach. The focus of the activity was on students and the connections they made together with the text. As a teacher, I designed the experience, but I did not drive the vehicle that was the conversation. I instead joined my students in conversation where I could and helped students who ran into technology issues. I was more in charge of providing guidance and contributing as a member of the learning community than I was a bucket-pourer of water onto sponges. That being said, my directions (while whispered and short) were didactic in approach, but the overall approach to the lesson and discussion was transformative.
I find it strange to say it, but I’m thankful for that month-long case of laryngitis. I left my Ego at the door and engaged my students with each other and myself even more.
Questions to Consider:
- What technology have you utilized to promote student discourse, or academic conversations?
- What are the benefits & obstacles of integrating all three types of discourse (didactic, authentic, & transformative) in pedagogical practice?
Thanks for your comments!