Sunday, March 14, 2010

Generation B

Have you ever asked a child what he thinks of a book? Did he shrug his shoulders and mumble, “I don’t know.” Or, did he just say, “Good.”

Over the years, I have heard the term “Generation X” used to describe the children of the baby boomers. As we’ve begun to age, I’ve read about the next generation—Generation Y. I don’t know which letter the media is up to now, but I propose we’re looking at Generation B. B for boring.

“Good” and “I don’t know” are not thoughts. In fact, they are completely thought-less. Children can say them without using their brain at all. Yet, when it comes to classroom conversation, “good” and “I don’t know” seem to be what children say most and as frustrated, impatient teachers, we accept it. When they don’t know, we tell them what they should know and move on. Then, we tell them it’s time for literature circles.

Over the last couple of months, I have been working with some fifth grade teachers on establishing book clubs. Typically this process begins with learning roles—Harvey Daniels dubbed terms like “Word Wizards” and “Literary Luminaries.” My feeling is that until we teach children the art of conversation, there isn’t going to be much wizarding and illuminating going on.

Our book club work has begun with conversation. What is an opinion? When someone shares an opinion, how should we respond? Conversations happen when people agree and say more, disagree and say why, question, connect, and share these responses. The reason we have discussions around books is to help us go deeper into the text and walk away with new understandings.

Our fifth grade work has had its ups and downs, as you can well expect; however, some of our lessons have been really effective. If you’re just starting book clubs, these lesson plans,"Sustaining Conversations" and "Finding our Opinions" your students have better book discussions.

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