Friday, June 22, 2012

Talking in Class: A Look at First Graders Engaged in Word Solving

The news has never been good about the number of minutes per day children at school get to speak, let alone engage in sustained discourse (Cazden, 2001; Dillon, 1985, 1994; Goodlad, 2004).  When learning at school was understood as the transfer of information from a teacher to students--the need for conversation appeared less important. We know that learning is far more complex than the transfer myth suggests.  Teacher talk dominates classroom discourse through lecture and the initiate-response-evaluate (IRE) model of questioning. Both of these remain staples in many classrooms, especially where the transference of information is still considered the main task of the teacher.  In contrast, the video included in this post offers an antidote to teacher dominated conversations.

One of the highlights from the CCSS is its emphasis on structured conversations. The CCSS authors write:

To become college and career ready, students must have ample opportunities to take part in a variety of rich, structured conversations—as part of a whole class, in small groups, and with a partner—built around important content in various domains. They must be able to contribute appropriately to these conversations, to make comparisons and contrasts, and to analyze and synthesize a multitude of ideas in accordance with the standards of evidence appropriate to a particular discipline. Whatever their intended major or profession, high school graduates will depend heavily on their ability to listen attentively to others so that they are able to build on others’ meritorious ideas while expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

In the classroom video below,  Michele Damiano,  leads her first grade students in an inference lesson through an interactive read aloud.  It is important to notice how explicitly Michele models and how engaged the children are in problem solving in order to understand words from the read aloud. The interactive read aloud offers an antidote to teacher dominated conversation while illustrating what a structured conversation can be.


  1. Such a helpful video. Will show in the fall.

  2. I will be using this modeling technique with a small group of first graders this week.

  3. I watched this video in the early reading matters workshop last week. I loved it and would love to share it with my colleagues.Is there anyway you can share it on another website? Youtube is blocked at our school.


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