Making Room for Quiet Voices

I was watching this video from Annenberg Media today.  It’s Katherine Bomer, a favorite author of mine, teaching and talking about her read aloud time.  It is packed with rich and exciting learning opportunities.  One of the things she mentions in the video is setting up structures to help make room for quiet voices in the classroom.  She shows how she has students meeting with talking partners during the read aloud time so that they can respond and react.  For many students participating in a large group is overwhelming.  Usually those dominant students will jump in and everyone else either gets a free pass or doesn’t get a chance.  So I started thinking about some of my own practices and how I’m enabling my quieter students to participate.

Turn and Talks: One thing I learned from Stephanie Harvey is use turn and talks and use them often.  These short opportunities to talk to a classmate give quieter students an in-road into the conversations.  They also engage all students in being present in the lesson.

Small Group Work: I’ve spent a lot of time working with students on developing guidelines and practicing for small group work, especially literature circles.  I have a goal setting system in place as well as a self-reflection system so that students can work on their part in small groups.  This is a constant work in progress as students develop and mature, and as groups change.  Every new group has its own challenges based on the students in it so I am always revisiting and revising how I’m helping students learn to cooperate and collaborate.

Written Response, Silent Dialogue: Sometimes it’s easier for students to write their thinking and respond to others’ written thoughts.  This gives them time to formulate their ideas in a way that makes sense to them.  This can be used between partners or small groups in a notebook or piece of paper, or as a gallery walk around the room.

Personal Written Response: In the video I mention Katherine Bomer finishes her read aloud time by having students write some thinking in their notebook to bring to the next class discussion.  She gives them several prompts; “What you’re wondering or what you’re predicting or what you’re dying to say right now.” I haven’t used this with my read aloud and I am definitely going to try it.  I’m thinking that if students have a comment written down they will be more likely to offer a response during a large group setting.

How do you make room for quiet voices in your classroom?

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This entry was posted in Professional Development, Read Aloud Books, Self Reflection. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Making Room for Quiet Voices

  1. This is a great blog with excellent tips and advice. Although you are teaching children, these tips are applicable for my grown-up students in medical school. Please clarify what is meant by “Turn and Talks”.

  2. Katie says:

    Thank you! A “turn and talk” is a point where you stop in the lesson and ask students to turn and talk for a few minutes to the person sitting next to them. In some cases students have an assigned turn and talk partner, in others it’s whoever happens to be near them. There are times when I ask students to turn and talk about something specific and other times when I just ask them to share their reactions. I use this strategy while teaching almost every subject. I will often use several during a teaching session so that all students are engaged and have an opportunity to clarify their thinking or listen to a classmate. It’s also a great way to gage where students are at if you walk around and listen in. I usually bring them back by saying “I just heard so and so talking about…” Turn and talks should only last a few minutes, but use them frequently. I would love to hear how it works with adult medical students!

  3. Thats good. I also do it sometimes in class but will now increase its frequency. The problem is how to ensure they talk about the subject and not anything else. What I do for this is to give them a problem and ask them to discuss the solution with one another. Then I ask anyone what they have discussed.

  4. tara says:

    I love that site – great for social studies, too!

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