I had a very productive collaborative discussion with my grade level partner yesterday and, as a result, decided it was finally time to get started on reading groups with my class.
Of course, I say that, but my students didn’t start function as reading groups today. Rather, they started functioning as groups that will eventually be reading together. First we needed to get used to what small groups really look like.
The first thing I noticed was that my students are very good at discussing whatever topic I throw their way: morning or afternoon recess? socks with sandals? soft shell beef burrito, ham and cheese sandwich, or cold lunch? favourite movie? which is better, the movie or the book? I had them discuss these various topics for five to ten minutes and then we regrouped and talked about what worked well with the discussions, what didn’t work so well, and how we could improve. (Those who have been following my blog for a while will surely notice that these three questions are favourites of mine when it comes to discussing processes. It is an idea that I was first introduced to through the Illinois Teen Institute via Mike Brandwein, and is the root of what is known as Awareness of Process. But I digress.)
The second thing I noticed is that my students need a lot of practice learning how to use a whisper voice. This is going to be a main focus of our practice tomorrow. How do small groups of four to six students have a discussion without being so loud that everyone in the room can hear them the entire time? I kind of wish I could get my hands on a large decibel meter so that the class members can visually see how loud they are.
We’ll work on using “whisper voices” tomorrow while we continue to prep for our reading groups. It may take a few days, or even weeks, and maybe even months (although I sincerely hope not), but I am confident that my students will figure it out and be fully prepared to function as semi-autonomous reading groups. Any suggestions from my fellow educators on how to accomplish this in a timely manner are always welcome!