Converstations

Hello my lovelies!

While I’d love to take credit for the creative blog title, it comes from a dear colleague whom I’ve had the pleasure of growing closer to throughout this academic year. She has sought guidance from me in such a way that I feel empowered as her mentor – although, truth be told, sometimes I feel she’s teaching me more than I’m teaching her.

Anyway, we’re in that time of year where our final observations are taking place and we’re trying to find inventive ways to showcase teaching strategies so as not to bore our observers. Enter, Chat Stations.

Where the idea began…

If you’re not a follower of Jennifer Gonzalez and the Cult of Pedagogy, you need to be – we, as educators, should model what it means to be lifelong learners for our students, and finding professional development opportunities that are free AND helpful is imperative. Cult of Pedagogy has been around a lot longer than I’ve been seeking PD, and Gonzalez often tweets out links to her older blog posts so we can continually seek new tools. This is how I found her post on Chat Stations.

(By the way, if you have other people you follow religiously, drop their links in the comments!)

Being at a classical school, learning by means of discussion is how the bulk of our lessons are planned. While my AP students have been phenomenal in regards to discussions – in all their forms – my traditional (on-level) juniors would much rather allow quiet to dominate any form of conversation. To help my students prepare for our Socratic Seminar over Of Mice and Men, which was also used as their assessment for the novella, I employed Chat Stations after the reading of Section 4 (when we’re introduced to Crooks).

The method…

I divided my room in half, which was a natural split due to the u-shaped configuration of my desks (not a complete and closed off horseshoe). I had a total of four stations which I duplicated so both halves of the room had the same four discussion points. Hindsight, this was smart as it limited bottlenecking and cross traffic.

Before beginning, I had the students count off by fours – 1s went to station one, 2s to station 2, and so on. This moved students around so they weren’t paired with their usual peers or shoulder partners.

Groups were then given 3-5 minutes per station. I circulated the room to monitor and adjust time based on the conversations that were happening. Students took notes at each station as they analyzed the quote displayed and applied it to a deeper understanding of the text, as a whole, and the world.

The outcome…

When we gathered for our whole class discussion the next day, I found the conversation to be much deeper and less “surface-y” than habit had allowed for. I was lucky in how the timing worked out and will do the same for next year. This activity occurred on a Monday, followed by a whole class discussion of Section 4 on Tuesday, followed by a whole novel Socratic on our Block days (Wednesday/Thursday). This lead to one of our most engaging Socratics for the year.

I will definitely keep this little tool tucked away and will pull it out earlier in the school year to help establish discussion norms and expectations.

And to steal from Hannibal (George Peppard, the OG) from the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”