By Jolene Graham with Karen Wood and Thomas DeVere Wolsey
The next three posts on LiteracyBeat explore possibilities for promoting discussion, often with technology embedded. Teachers have long known of the value of discussion in the classroom, but the Common Core State Standards also emphasize these skills in the anchor standards for collaboration and presentation. Please open the Common Core Standards that Address Conversation and Collaboration PDF to see these arrayed on a chart.
This week’s post was written by Jolene Graham describing the Exchange Compare Writing instructional approach which encourages students to have meaningful discussions. In the video, below, she describes how she uses digital technologies to enhance the activity. The strategy occurs in four steps.
- Determine 6-8 significant terms to emphasize
- Pre-assign students to heterogeneous groups of four or five.
- Display, pronounce terms.
- Groups use terms to compose a paragraph representing their predictions of the story they are about to read. All terms must be used.
- Teacher assists, circulates, and monitors participation.
- Students polish compositions in peer-editing groups (Optional)
- Groups share completed compositions orally.
- Students read passage focusing on significant terms.
- Students discuss terms as used in the selection.
- Groups/class compose second passage reflecting selection content
Jolene describes a lesson that uses exchange compare writing:
I recently used exchange compare writing in my fourth-grade classroom as we read the book So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting (1998). To prepare for my lesson I first read the book and chose key vocabulary that would help the children write a communal, predictive passage. These preselected terms were reviewed as a class to solidify the meaning of each term. Terms were defined by providing a picture or by using the word in a sentence. As a class we reviewed what was meant by working collaboratively, and we discussed the importance of both listening and speaking to other group members. The students were divided into heterogeneous groups and invited to collaboratively write a paragraph that predicted what the story was going to be about. I used this communal writing time to walk around the room and listen to suggestions, ask questions, and promote collaboration. It was a perfect way to assess the learning that was occurring.
After the groups wrote their collaborative predictions, we read the story, listening carefully for each of the key vocabulary words. To make sure my students were actively listening I asked them to raise their hands when they heard one of the words we used in our predictive passage. After the reading we discussed how our predictions compared with what actually happened in the story. The students then were asked to go back into their same groups and collaboratively write a summary of the story, using the key terms correctly.
Below, you will see a list of vocabulary terms, one predicted response and one response after reading that student groups might create.
So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting
Grave Manzanar War Relocation Center Japan Guard towers Monument Boat Neckerchief Silk flowers Attack Barracks Cub Scout uniform Origami birds
Predicted passage (A passage the teacher wrote as a model for students using the terms selected, above).
Japan attacked America so we sent the Japanese-American people to the Manzanar War Relocation Center. There were guard towers to make sure the people couldn’t leave and barracks for the people to sleep in. The relocation center was far from the sea and if you looked really hard you could see boats. People didn’t have a lot to do so they spent time making origami birds and silk flowers. Some people died and a graveyard was made. When the war was over I was so excited I decided to wear my scout uniform and neckerchief. Today there is a monument there for all of the people who were sent to that camp.
Student response after reading the passage
Laura and her family were traveling to Manzanar War Relocation Center to visit the grave of her grandfather. This will be the last time they are visiting since they will be moving from California to Massachusetts. Laura’s father tells what the camp used to look like with guard towers, barbed wire fences, barracks, a hospital, churches and a school. All Japanese-Americans were sent to live there because Japan attacked the United States.
Laura’s grandfather was a tuna fisherman. He owned his own boat and loved the sea. When the Americans came to take them to the relocation camp, Laura’s father wore his Cub Scout uniform so the guards would know he was a true American.
Laura’s family brought silk flowers to place at her grandfather’s grave. There is a memorial to mark the graves of those who died in the camp. People have left offerings such as rice cakes, origami birds, and bits of colored glass. Laura brought her own neckerchief from her scout uniform to place as an offering because her grandfather was a “true American”.
As the groups shared it is again so obvious who has really comprehended and gained understanding of the initially identified terms. Like many collaborative strategies, communal writing provides wonderful opportunities to formatively assess your students.
Listen to Jolene describe how she uses Exchange Compare Writing using Google Docs:
Bunting, E. (1998). So far from the sea. New York, NY: Clarion Books.
Wood, K. D., Stover, K. & Taylor, D.B. (in press) Smuggling writing across grades K-5: Standards-based instruction for the 21st Century Classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Wolsey, T.D., Wood, K., & Lapp, D. (in press). Conversation, collaboration, and the Common Core: Strategies for learning together. IRA e-ssentials series: What’s New? Newark, DE :International Reading Association.
About the contributors:
Jolene Graham teaches 4th-grade for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina
Karen Wood is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.