We did a “chalk talk” today in class, actually in this case it was a “marker talk” because I had them write on paper so I could have some sort of hard copy of what sorts of things students added. And to be honest it only went so so. I was expecting it to go much better, but it is the first time we did anything like that, so I’ll call it a work in progress. To be fair, I might have left it a little too open ended, it may work better next time if the students have questions before hand that I can add to the poster, making it more of a focused writing activity than I had originally hoped for, but also maybe more productive. Maybe at some point I’ll try it again with certain questions that I know will draw a bit of debate between students…a “what would you do in this situation” sort of a question.
It was hard to get the “write it, don’t say it,” rule down with several of the classes. Not that I don’t want them to talk, but this was an opportunity for the less vocal students to share. And an opportunity for them to write, obviously. Unfortunately, it was still the more vocal students who were most willing to add to the poster. I also got a lot of repetitive comments on each poster, even after reminding students to look at what others had written before adding their own thinking. Maybe I should have put a variety of posters around the room, and had students walk in small groups around the room and do it that way? Maybe I could have had them stop, read what the previous group had written, then add? I guess there are many things I could have done differently. Leaving it as a whole class activity worked against me this time. Students weren’t taking the time to read what others had written, or to add to what others had already written…sort of eliminating one of the goals of written discussions.
I’ve been having some success with students working in groups of three of four, more so when I randomly pick groups literally out of a pile, than the one time I decided to let them choose on their own. I’m always worried that when I have them choose groups there will always be those one or two kids that don’t fit into any group and then I have to play mom and gently push them into a group, reminding the already semi-formed group that one more person is always better. That always for some reason makes me feel very uncomfortable for the student. I’d much rather just randomly select groups so there isn’t that 30 second span of time when some poor kid is kinda looking around confused and kinda upset that no one bothered to look in his direction when group time came. I’m much too empathetic to those sorts of situations and the feelings they inevitably bring up.
Anyway, some great things came up about “conflict” today. We were talking about internal and external conflict in a story, and when we were looking over our poster–where students had written everything they could think of, connect with themselves, or draw about conflict– I commented on the fact that most people focused on external conflicts, things for the most part outside of their control: War, Bullying, Fighting, Arguments…or the Nature/Weather type conflicts. Very few people had mentioned the sort of the inner turmoil type of conflict that we all experience, and that many characters experience. This is something to talk about next time. In fact, most of the novels we are reading have some sort of inner conflict, especially the social action novels, so I’m sure we’ll be talking about this a great deal.
“Chalk Talk”, I haven’t given up on you just yet, but definitely need to rework you a little before I use you again.