Kim asked this question about comprehension conversations: I find that sometimes the children get very involved in what we are reading and our discussions takes over. I’m glad that we can discuss, and that the children find the topic interesting. My question is when is to much and when I have to transition to another area of planning such as lunch do I come back to it later or let it go if the children don’t mention it.

First of all, Kim, this is a GREAT problem to have! Here are a few guiding questions to ask yourself as you are conducting a conversation with your class:

  1. Is the conversation deepening or is it just idle chit chat?
  2. Does it have academic value?
  3. Is everyone reacting and giving information into the conversation or is it the “usual suspects” that are contributing?
  4. Are you guiding the conversation and the depth of the comments?
  5. Have you connected a written component? (This is where some serious extending of conversation should happen)

Here’s what Open Court’s “Handing Off Routine” encourages – this is a GREAT way for any teacher to teach students how to converse in the academic setting:

  • Students are seated so they can see each other and engage in a discussion.
  • Take a seat and be part of the group.
  • Students have their books and are free to refer back to any selection to make a point.
  • Students take responsibility for discussion.
  • Students ask questions, comment on what they have read, react to the text.
  • Students choose—hand the discussion off to—others in the class.
  • Model handing-off by offering comments on the text, the style of the writer, or the connection to the unit theme.
  • Use discussion starters such as “I didn’t know that . . . “ or “This piece made me think . . .” or “I disagree with _________ because . . . “
  • Participate in the discussion by raising your hand.

What successful techniques do you use? Share them in the comment sections see what other educators think!