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The Classroom

The Classroom is a podcast by a middle school writing teacher conferring with students about the books they read and issues in writing. The podcast strives to give students a voice about the impact of choice in the classroom and the reality of what works for them in the teaching of reading and writing.
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Now displaying: May, 2016
May 22, 2016

The power of talking comes through in this episode. I sat with Rachel who struggled with writing a topic sentence even though so many other aspects of her thinking was in place. She had not tried to say and share her thinking through talking first.

In this example, Rachel shares her understanding of a moment in the novel Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott. Examining the relationship between Jo and Beth, Rachel struggles with writing her thinking; however, as you hear her talk about it, clearly Rachel knows what she wants to say.

The process of writing our thinking down is an important takeaway for our students. However, talking it out first is a strategy that they can carry with them. Ultimately, I found this conference symbolic of my trying to change the writer and not the writing.

Changing the writer lasts longer.

May 19, 2016

Conferring with students opens up opportunities for student voice. These podcasts are opportunities for students to talk with me about reading and writing outside of the boundaries of a specific essay or a specific book.

I never really know where the conversation is going to take us, but I try to see each conversation as learning opportunity for me and the participating student(s).

During this episode, Jenny talks with me about her habit of reading multiple books at once. What is interesting is that Jenny does not call herself a big reader (her words). Yet, as we talk, we uncover some of the conditions of (what I consider) a wonderful reading life in the making.

Listen to Jenny share the rich access to, and conversations about, books in her home. I love that Jenny knows the kinds of books her family members read.

As we dig a little deeper, Jenny and I offer our ideas what we consider makes someone a big reader.

I encourage feedback and connections to this podcast series. Please reach to me at Twitter @_briank_

May 9, 2016

Repeatedly, my students tell me that they do not talk about their books with one another. Even if they struggle with a text, their impulse is not to turn to a classmate or even a teacher. When I polled my students about their reading strategies, they report that they slow down, find a quiet place, and re-reading as their top three moves. As a matter of fact, of the eleven reading strategies that students identified as something that they do, "asking someone" came in last behind "staying stuck." Students reported acquiescing to the struggle before they would ask someone.

I was happy that our podcast conversation drifted back into this topic today. It reinforces not only the responsibility we bear to teach strategies but also using talking and conferring as an avenue for understanding. 

To be honest, I am still wrestling with this revelation. After 22 years in the classroom I am still making assumptions. I assumed my students would ask me or ask a classmate if they found themselves stuck in their reading. But as some students report in this podcast, they believe "there is nothing to talk about."

Teaching strategies is one thing. But where do our students go when the strategies fall short with a piece of text?

Do they know how to talk about their struggles? Do they think of reading as a search for right answers? Have we reduced academic reading into a series of transactions? Have we turned some reading into a commodity to be exchanged for a score instead of an idea to be explored...including our basic struggles with that ideas?

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