Another note on discussion…

[Response to Chapter 5 in BPR’s “Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice”]

As I was reviewing my notebook, I realized I forgot to mention a quote I found particularly important as we look into the teacher’s role in effective discussions (aka thought provoking exercise).

The teacher’s contribution to the discussion lies in keeping it organized, keeping it flowing, making sure all perspectives are respected…but it’s also to enrich and deepen the discourse. The teacher’s greater breadth of reading will enable her to spot what the students have missed, to raise questions they haven’t thought of, to see connections to other events and other texts that the less mature readers won’t notice, to recognize the need for more evidence here and a stronger logical connection there…so, she will gradually be training students to talk in more sophisticated and intelligent ways (53). 

With that said, I think teachers are also facilitating a learning environment in which students are also learning how to think in more sophisticated and intelligent ways. 

Tying into this, I think about how the gifted students are treated, rather left out in the classroom (at least in my CT’s class at the moment). My CT and I have talked about this many times; it’s hard to create a classroom around differentiation. We are a full inclusion county so we have everyone in the room. When she wants to give the gifted students a different assignment (for example, reading the full short story versus just an excerpt), she sends them to work quietly in the hallway. Yes, these students are gifted which means they already have strong reading and writing skills. They get the basic themes, plots, figurative language uses, etc. BUT the only discussion they get is what they may or may not discuss in their small group out in the hall. I have a problem with this because I feel that they need a teacher there to push them and make them think more critically, if that makes sense.

I don’t think we should just assume that because they are labeled “gifted” that they know how to push themselves with abstract thinking through effective discussions. I’m not sure there is an easy answer for this, and I do feel my CT’s frustrations. But there has to be a better way…


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