Student Conversations

At a recent workshop with our Perpich Arts Integration Network Teachers we continued our exploration of collaboration. We have visited this theme in a number of ways over the course of the past school year focusing on both teacher and student perspectives.  

We use the video “Austin’s Butterfly” for conversation, focusing on three questions:

1)    What did Austin get from collaboration?

2)    What did the other kids get from collaboration?

3)    What do we as teachers get from collaboration?

Giving feedback through critique is one of many strategies for developing collaborative skills. Feedback is addressed in our Minnesota State Arts Standards, “Revise artwork based on the feedback of others..” Besides using feedback for the purpose of revision I have been awakened to other benefits for students when they engage in giving feedback to each other.

The work of Brianna Gray and Jake Rosch was recently brought to my attention. Gray and Rosch are middle school teachers who conducted a study of student-to-student dialogue. At the school where Gray and Rosch teach approximately 50% their middle school students do not have English as their first language and nearly 20% are considered beginners in English proficiency. Their iBook www.talkinginclass.com  provides a chapter on academic vocabulary and the research benefits of student-to-student dialogue. What they learned included:

1) Using new words in authentic discourse is vital for lasting learning.

2) Students must use words in slightly new ways and in different contexts to make them solidify in the brain.

3) The more students converse about a topic, the more they report feeling intelligent and more capable in their ability to talk about what they are learning.

4) Conversation builds oral language, which is a foundation for reading and writing.

5) Students who engage in conversations with academic content build their “academic identity” and as a result have more confidence in their ability to engage with others in academic discourse.

The next time I view “Austin’s Butterfly” I will add to my appreciation of collaborative feedback for revision but also how this video speaks to the skills of academic conversation.

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