Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Kids Need to Talk

Talking has always been an important piece of processing for me. I have an extremely vivid memory from Grade 2 of a teacher who continually asked me to sit down and stop talking. In desperation she used masking tape to attach me to my desk chair and cover my mouth. This was back in the “baby boom” days of 35 to 40 children in a classroom and she was fresh from Junior E (a teacher training initiative that saw 19 and 20 year olds assume classroom duties after one year of post-secondary). It was my delight to meet her years later, teaching in the school where I was completing my teacher practicum. We laughed together when I reminded her of that memory.

Needless to say I have always had a soft spot for those who need to talk. From my early days as a classroom teacher I had a fairly high tolerance for chatter and often introduced a new idea with the phrase “Turn to your neighbor and talk about….” Recently We are Teachers posted “5 Fun Alternatives to Think-Pair-Share” and each alternative is a great strategy for using student conversing to further learning.

During my years facilitating the Inquiring Minds program called Edmonton Oilers ICE School I was introduced to the Jigsaw method by an outstanding teacher. I have often said that one of the greatest gifts of my time in week-long, site-based programming has been the opportunities to work beside and learn essential tools from skillful educators.

This instructional strategy has so much going for it. My recent reading on this topic revealed to me that the master mind behind Jigsaw was Elliot Aronson, a social psychologist and father of four, who in 1971 was distressed by the circumstances in recently desegregated Austin, Texas public schools. He worked with colleagues and students at the University of Texas and the University of California to research a small group cooperative learning technique that could synthesize principles gleaned from his years of work on small-group dynamics and social interaction. The goal was not primarily a learning objective, but rather to bridge the gap hostility created between children from different ethnic groups.

Jennifer Gonzalez of the wonderful blog, Cult of Pedagogy posted an excellent piece on Jigsaw last April. There is a video about the strategy and if you sign up to receive Jennifer’s tips by email you get a free copy of instructions for using it in a variety of ways.

I now look forward to her emails and have found many other pearls in them. She got me thinking about all of this when she sent me this great post last week called the Big List of Class Discussion Strategies. Take a look!

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