During lesson study debriefs over the last several years, the teachers that I support shared their observations relevant to a variety of focal points. Often, they lingered over what they noticed about active participation, questioning, and the facilitation of large group discussion.
As a pre-service teacher, I was fortunate enough to learn a great deal about active participation from my cooperating teacher, Janell Lindstrom. She coached me to question in ways that engaged learners and to illicit responses from all of them without inviting anyone to raise a hand. This practice often served me well as a teacher. So I found myself nodding enthusiastically as I watched Dylan Wiliam speak about facilitating rich conversations about text. Go watch. It’s worth it.
In my own work with readers–struggling readers especially—I’m also finding it especially helpful to add one step to the pose, pause, pounce, bounce approach that Wiliam recommends: pairing.
Here’s how it works:
Pose an engaging, complex question to the group.
Pause as learners process the question and frame potential responses individually. Ask them to jot their thoughts down, and as they work, begin walking the room and peeking over shoulders. Notice where meaning is taking shape.
Invite learners to pair up, share responses, and use what they learn to change their thinking. Keep paying attention.
Listen carefully and notice what’s right about the responses that are taking shape. Perhaps they aren’t the ones you were looking for. That’s usually a good thing. Whose answers are meaningful, interesting….relevant?
Pounce on those kids. Their less than perfect responses are a gift. They can inspire deeper thinking and work.
Reframe their responses by making what’s relevant the whole. Then, bounce them out to the group again. Cycle back around again.
This has been really hard work, but it’s also been very worthwhile. Strategies like this push quality conversations without shaming anyone. When it comes to working with struggling readers, I’m finding that this is an important consideration.