Session 2.1 - Introduction to whole class dialogue and effective questioning
1 Review of follow-up activities from last session
Last time, we asked you to practice using the LfL lenses when you are back in your own classroom settings, or even when you are watching others in the act of teaching and learning.
Whole class dialogue (10 min) about the LfL framework. We asked you to take time to use the LfL framework to think about the OER4Schools programme, your own learning and how you contributed to, and were supported in, your learning. Go round the group and give an example of your own teaching, or teaching you have witnessed, or other ideas about learning through the framework of the 5 LfL lenses. Once everybody has contributed something, spend some time discussing your observations.
Whole class dialogue (10 min): Reflection on peer observation. We asked you to undertake a 30-minute observation of student learning in a colleague’s classroom using the LfL lenses. Using the notes you made, go round saying in turn how it went, and which lens you chose to observe. Remember to try and report what you saw, through the particular lens chosen. As an example of how the reporting can take place, you may like to quickly report in this format:
- I have chosen to look at student learning through the ‘conditions of learning’ lens.
- We agreed that I will look out for whether the students have opportunities to pose questions (or whether they feel safe to ask questions) in the lesson.
- I notice that students are generally quite quiet throughout the lesson. Teacher X asked several times whether they had any questions they wanted to ask. Students did not respond.
- My inference from this is that students are not used to posing questions. Perhaps they feel embarrassed to ask questions? Or perhaps they don’t know what to ask?
By reporting what was seen and heard, and then making an inference based on the practice observed, the discussion can avoid problems of possible unhelpful critique of peer professional practices.
2 Creating a supportive environment for dialogue
We are now moving on to the topic of this unit, and we start with introducing whole class dialogue. We initially focus on:
- creating a supportive environment for dialogue, and
- cumulative talk - creating a story together.
Magic microphone (10 min) on the last workshop. Use a prop, for example a stick or a long pencil as a magic microphone, or a ball. Whoever gets the prop answers an open-ended question such as ‘one thing from the last workshop that I could use effectively in my classroom was...’ or ‘what I did not find useful from the last workshop was...’.
Magic microphone (10 min) in the classroom: role-play. Repeat the above activity, but this time role-playing how you would carry out the activity in the classroom with pupils. Think of your own questions to use in the classroom. Make a note of these questions, so that you can try out the activity in the classroom. As you are planning, consider these questions:
- How easily will the children be able to answer the questions?
- Will the microphone get stuck because a child cannot answer?
- How do you know that the questions are at the right level?
- Will this activity be fun? (Relates to: LfL, 2)
3 Introducing cumulative talk - creating a story together
Cumulative talk (10 min): Creating a story together. All the participants get up to rearrange the seating. Arrange the group in a horseshoe seating arrangement(a) if there is room. If not, choose another arrangement allowing participants to see each other. Facilitator starts a story by saying one sentence. All participants then contribute to the story by adding sentences.
A good story would:
- be contextually appropriate: for example, use common names of characters and a setting familiar to participants,
- have a theme relevant for participants, such as education (girl-child receiving schooling later supports family); importance of forests and wild-life (saving a snake later becomes useful for invention of new medicine); treatment of diseases (steps taken by a family to treat an ill person), etc.,
- be short and have few characters, and
- have a problem which is collectively resolved in the end.
For instance, you could create a story about welcoming a new child to the school, perhaps a child with an impairment of some kind. The facilitator starts by saying: "The other day, I heard my neighbours talking about whether their child should be starting school, because their child has difficulty walking, and they were not sure whether children like that should go to school." (Relates to Index for Inclusion, A1.1 Everyone is welcomed.)
The activity we just did is an example of “cumulative talk”, where participants build on what the previous person has said (“cumulative talk” is one way of moving towards whole class dialogue).
- Consider that when this activity is done in the classroom with pupils, themes should be chosen from the curriculum.
- Also consider that the seating arrangement can be modified according to teachers’ classrooms such that pupils see each other. Pupils can leave their tables and just move their chairs (or sit outside if the grounds are suitable).
As you are planning this activity, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do your students find it easy to talk?
- How can you encourage students to talk?
- Are some students likely to laugh at other students contributions? How can you create safe environments that enable students to take risks?(Relates to: LfL, 2.4)
4 Whole class discussion: Creating a supportive environment
Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min) Video on classification of vertebrates. Video clips Eness vertebrates 10 ("Is a boy a mammal?") and 11 ("Is a whale a fish or a mammal?"); lively class discussion about classifying these animals, deliberately chosen to create controversy and to challenge the pupils
- Was there a supportive environment for pupil participation and dialogue in this lesson?(Relates to: LfL, 2) If so, how did the teacher achieve this?
- How did she help students to work out whether the boy and the whale were mammals? Did this discussion move their thinking forward?(Relates to: LfL, 1)
- What did you think about teacher control and pupil learning in these video clips? How would a horseshoe seating arrangement have impacted on this?
- How would you manage something similar in your classroom? How would you encourage pupil talk without losing too much control?
5 Reflection on what we have learned
- body language for encouraging dialogue;
- cumulative talk;
- encouraging most pupils to talk;
- withholding feedback sometimes to motivate pupils without fear of “wrong” answers: not evaluating pupil responses, just accepting them, forming rules for dialogue, and
- managing the tension between control and learners’ freedom to contribute.
6 ICT practice: Different-task group work with ICT and activity planning
Whole class dialogue (5 min) on ICT use. To use ICT in an investigative way requires that both teachers and learners are sufficiently familiar with the technology and software, or the teacher spends the whole time troubleshooting problems of using the technology and software instead of addressing the more important enquiry skills and learning objectives. Developing this familiarity through progressively more complex use of ICT needs careful thought. It is important to develop good strategies for using ICT in the classroom. For instance, addressing the whole class to demonstrate features/procedures of using ICT can be most efficient rather than speaking to groups in turn. However, where groups have got specific problems, it can be useful to support that group first, so that they can later help other groups. Take a few minutes to discuss what issues have arisen so far.
Different-tasks group work (15 min) on spreadsheets. In this session, we suggest that you familiarise yourself with the use of the spreadsheet function in OpenOffice and/or with GeoGebra. It is likely that you may need to continue with this as homework.
You can print this content on a separate sheet here: OER4Schools/Spreadsheet exercises/1.
As with the other applications, we will return to spreadsheets in a later session. If you find the activities very easy, because you have used spreadsheets before, then help others! As you are doing the exercises yourself, consider for which grade and for which lessons they might be useful. For instance, in the Zambian context, would these exercises be suitable for Grade 5 upwards?
7 Assessment portfolios
Whole class dialogue (10 min): Read about assessment portfolios together, and discuss any issues arising In Unit 1, we learned about the cycle of plan-teach-reflect, and the idea of keeping a reflective journal. We would now like to extend the idea of a reflective journal further by asking you to select material from it for submission to an assessment portfolio. We would like you to select material for your assessment portfolio that best illustrates how you have made use of the interactive teaching techniques that you have learned about in the workshop sessions. An ideal submission for your portfolio should include:
- an explanation of why you have chosen to do a particular activity with your students;
- a completed activity template showing how the activity fits into the rest of the lesson;
- a description of how the students responded to the activity;
- a reflection on what you would do differently if you did the activity again;
- any other important notes;
- samples of students' work if possible, e.g. a concept map, and
- 'snapshots' of the activity to show how it went, e.g. a copy of the results of a brainstorm, or a copy of the images you used.
Submission of an assessment portfolio containing at least one piece of material (with notes) from each unit is a key part of completing the OER4Schools programme. Further assessment portfolio guidance for use during discussion.
Do you have recording equipment available? This could be your phone, or, if you have a laptop or tablet, you could use that for recording. If you have something you can record audio with, then for each piece of work that you submit, do an audio reflection. To do this, think about how you would show a teacher in another school what you have been learning through the OER4S programme. What concrete examples would you share with them? How would you show them the range of things that you have covered? Then suppose this teacher asked you some questions, e.g. what worked well? What didn’t work so well? What would you say to them?
Ideally you would make a link between the workshop session and your classroom trial. Tell us where the idea came from, and how you applied it. We don’t want or need evidence - we just want to know, in your own words, what you have learned.
Here is a short example of the sort of reflection we would like you to record: “I learned about _________ in session ____. I thought that it could be really useful for my pupils during a lesson on _________, I tried it out with my students. The work I have submitted is an example of ________. I have also submitted an example of what the students did. I had initially written this ______ [for the students], and the students then added ________. Students responded differently. Mary had difficulty with it because ___________. (E.g. a computer did not work - why did it not work?!) I concluded the lesson with a plenary, and they told me these answers. If I was to do this again, I would do it like this: ______. I would also apply this tool to another lesson on ________topic, because ______________“.
You can also do a short audio reflection right after a lesson in which you have tried out a new approach or technology, so you record your immediate reactions and thoughts. These files can then help to inform your portfolio later on, or even be submitted as part of it.
8 Connecting with overarching goals of the programme
Open space (10 min). It's now time for the "open space", that gives you an opportunity to discuss issues that have arisen, and to relate those to the broader context of the programme. Do not just gloss over this section, but make time to raise issues, and probe the progress that you are making. You could use this space to:
- Remind yourselves of the of the Most Significant Change Technique, and e.g. collect more of your stories.
- Discuss your assessment portfolios: Is there anything that you are unsure about? Is it going well? What could be done better?
- Check on the work with the classroom assistants: Is this going well? Are there any tensions? Any observations or tips you can share?
- Reviewing individual ICT practise (such as typing practise).
- If you are preparing a presentation for other teachers, you could work on the presentation (about what you have been learning, stories emerging from MSC).
- Remind those who are doing audio diaries, to upload them.
- You could discuss any other issues that have arisen.
You will find notes and summaries of various techniques and concepts on our reference page, and you might want to refer to those for clarification during this activity if needed.
9 Follow-up activities
Part A: Try out the ‘magic microphone’ technique with an easy question for pupils to answer (e.g. “what’s your favourite food?”); every child should say something, but keep the pace rapid so it doesn’t take too long – if someone isn’t ready, come back to them.
Part B: Try out cumulative talk by asking pupils to create a class story, each contributing one line whenever they are handed the magic microphone by their peers. Use some of the techniques discussed in this session to create a supportive environment, for example: positive body language, enthusiastic tone, listening to each other before speaking, and building on what the previous person has said. Encourage any shy children to have a go, and repeat the activity with another topic on another occasion so they get more used to public speaking.
Part C: Your own ICT practice:
- Practise your typing skills.
- Continue to practise finding resources and downloading images for a lesson that you can do. When you download images, put them into your lesson_resources folder, and use the slideshow function using a web browser on the netbooks or teacher computers.
Part D: ICT use in the classroom:
- Do another image-based activity
- Do typing practice (carousel)