I posted about my thoughts on using Edmodo as a back channel so students could view their thinking on reading strategies during common reading time (namely read-alouds, as SSR is made up of student-selected material).
On Friday, my first two classes met up with @chadsansing‘s classes and had a fantastic discussion about what authors should write for individual students, and what should be written so adults could better understand individual students. We were having pretty interesting conversations in the classroom based on what was posted there, so thank you Chad.
But I only do this with my morning classes. 5th hour was scheduled for book check-out in the library at the beginning of the hour, which left me about 20 minutes in 4th that I had to play with. I figured I’d go ahead and try the back channel activity and see what came of it.
I set up a video camera in the back of the classroom. This always raises student anxiety (or turns on the show-off switch) because they think they’re being filmed. I promised them that the video camera was trained on the screen so I could review the conversation later, and I wasn’t lying. Next time, though, I think I want to film on an SD card rather than a mini-DV. I can’t get the video onto my computer without installing the software, and I don’t want to do that. Anyway…
I prefaced the activity by saying that its purpose was for me to learn about how this activity could work and how we could use it to help us see what’s in our head while reading. I also talked to them about failure–namely, I almost expected to fail the first time because I’ve never done anything like this before and I’m going to use that to figure out how I can make it better the next time.
So the kids went into the activity with the knowledge that it was mostly for me to learn from. Showing them my process for introducing new activities I think is incredibly important. If they see what and how I think about approaching the creation of an activity, they may buy in more than a class that gets dropped into an activity with no explanation of its purpose.
I thought about what Ca, E. Federspiel, and Mr. Teacher Person (ha! I know who you are) had to say and took those comments into consideration when presenting this activity. I chose to use Sandra Cisneros collection of vignettes, The House on Mango Street. The stories are short enough that they don’t have to listen for long, and each of them (with the obvious exception of the kid that said “I’m bored” and who refuses to read at all) was able to come up with something to say, even if they were pinging off something someone else said.
I was very impressed with their willingness to participate. I did consider the fact that initially, they will probably use each other to come up with thoughts, and hopefully, in time, we’ll be able to move away from that and to original thought. The responses show the varying levels of students in the class, from those who make connections to books that they’re reading, to those that only re-posted a reworded version of someone else’s thoughts.
But for a first time, amazing. Future incarnations of this activity will involve specific strategy instruction, e.g. comments on how authors use details, making connections, questioning and inference, predictions, etc. The passages I’ll use will differ depending on the strategy, but I think it’s going to foster the kind of conversation I want the kids to have about how authors write and how we comprehend.