About Discourse: Part 1

This past school year, I thought a lot about discourse in the classroom – especially in my 9th-grade chemistry classes.  I use the Modeling Instruction approach to teaching and student discourse is a large part of that pedagogy.  One class was full of students who had managed to hold on to their natural curiosity about the world around them, and discourse happened naturally.  Another class struggled to talk to each other and I had to figure out what moves I needed to make in order for discourse to be productive.  To make a long story short, in February I held space for teachers in all 3 divisions to talk and strategize.  All I did was post a few prompts to get the discussion started.  Over the next few posts, I’m going to share those prompts.  Feel free to respond and get a discussion going!

Prompt 1:  What do you think productive discourse looks like?

As a teacher, sometimes discourse can be scary. Productive discourse can be loud and messy.  It requires an observer to have an idea of what to look (and listen) for.  There’s only 1 of me, and 18 (or 24, or 32, or…) of them.  If I put them into small groups, how can I be sure that everyone is on task and talking productively?  Looking at the picture I posted above, I notice that all 3 students are engaged in dialogue.  One is actively speaking.  Another has a finger on the problem for reference as she listens.  The third is actively looking at her own copy of the problem as she listens.  All three have writing utensils in hand, ready to write notes or change their work, depending on how the conversation goes.  This isn’t the “be all end all” of what productive discourse looks like, but it makes it easier for me to scan the classroom and determine which groups I need to listen in on first.

In a whole class situation, I would hope to hear only one voice at a time.  That being said, I would hope to hear multiple voices throughout the discussion.  I might expect to hear moments of silence as everyone processes what was just said.  I would hope to not hear my own voice very often – I want to only ask occasional questions to give a little jump-start if needed.

These are just a couple of thoughts I had in response to this prompt.  I hope you will add more.

A note about my blog:  I’m terrible about following through on blogging, but I am really good at getting ideas from other people’s blogs.  So this is my attempt (once again) to give back.  I think my SO created this site for me a year before I posted my one (and only) blog post.  It’s been two years since I posted that one blog post.  I am going to work on not taking two years to post again, which is why I’m splitting this discussion into multiple posts.  I hope that will provide me with motivation to keep going and to give back to the science ed community.  If you find that it’s been awhile since I’ve posted, feel free to call me out on it.  🙂

The Importance of Being ConnectED

I have been thinking about making a website for a few years.  My husband has been (gently) pushing me to make it.  I have many twitter peeps who have suggested it.  Sometimes I tend to be a bit OCD.  I don’t get out of bed until the clock shows a minute number divisible by 5.  I think that I have to start things like blogs when new school years start.  I need to have nice, organized categories for my posts, and a list of posts ready to go.  This year, I’m trying to step out and let go of that perfectionist side.  I still ended up waiting for the school year to start – mostly because this summer has been busy.  However, I don’t have nice, organized categories ready to go.  I’m not sure when I’ll post again (though I will try to do so at least once a week).  This website isn’t anywhere near being done.

This summer I got to travel – a lot.  I was not home for an entire week  once the calendar turned to June.  I attended workshops at the University of Kansas, University of Nebraska, and Kansas State University.  At each of these workshops, I got to learn from professors and how to connect their research to my classroom.  I also got to meet a lot of other great educators and beg, borrow, and steal a lot of their fantastic ideas.

I also attended EdCampSWKS.  This was scary for me, as I went by myself – only knowing people through twitter.  I am a bit of an introvert and meeting people (even people I kind of know) is terrifying.  I had signed up for the past 2 summers, and let excuses get me out of it.  This summer, I pulled up my big girl pants and headed to Dodge.  I’m glad I did – again, because I got the opportunity to beg, borrow, and steal a lot of great ideas.  Thanks to the ladies of USD 355 for letting me join you for lunch!  😉

I have had the opportunity to work with one of my favorite twitter teachers, Kelly O’Shea.  We had some Chemistry Google Chats.  I got to attend Physics Teacher Camp in Sacramento, California – one of her pet projects in connection with AAPT.

In addition to these fabulous opportunities, I was also honored to be able to lead a few workshops around the state, as one of the Kansas NGSS trainers.  I always learn so much from these opportunities – especially when I am partnered with a teacher like Denise Scribner!

My highlight of the summer?  Attending the NSTA STEM Forum and Expo in Denver with 6 awesome colleagues, and getting to hear from (and take pictures with) the AMAZING Derek Muller!  He gave his This Will Revolutionize Education keynote – with a bit more details and activities than this video.  If I can summarize a bit:  the role of teachers is to help students “get off of the couch” and get CONNECTED with their learning.  (For a little more, check out his guest post on Frank Noschese’s blog:  What Puts the Pseudo in Pseudoteaching).

Connection.  This year, I want to delve a little bit more into this word – and these experiences.  This is just an intro post – if I say it, that means you’ll hold me accountable to more, right?  😉

One powerful little word.  How are you experiencing the power of being connectED this year?Veritasium Selfie