Student Engagement & Authentic Conversations

Nerd alert... I like research. The longer I teach the more I like it. More about that below.  :o)
We are, like everyone else this time of year, trying to get our kinder kids talking. They talk all day of course, but trying to get them talking in complete sentences, asking quesitons and engaging in meaningful academic conversations is....possible!
I like words. I like talking with inflection and expression. Let's face it, when I am in my classroom, alone with my little friends, I am an actress on stage with my captive audience. :o)
The more animated I talk, teach, read, sing... etc., the more engaged they are. The more engaged they are, the more purposeful and authentic their conversations are. Student engagement and student to student interaction are SO intermingled. It would seem to me that you really can't have one without the other. I am BIG on kids talking together. When I am teaching I probably pose a question to them at least 6 or 7 times during a lesson, sometimes more. "Turn and ask your partner what they noticed about the ......"(partners talk) "Who can raise your hand and tell me in a complete sentence what you and your partner discussed?"
(Model sentence frame... "My partner and I noticed that......") We do this so many times a day during every content area, it is just the normal. I walk around as they talk. I listen, encourage, but mostly listen.
I am not big on contrived conversations.... (peaunut butter/jelly's etc.). I've done it in the past, it's just not my preference. I just find that my kids are better at talking in a more natural way, meaning that I don't ask the person who is taller to talk first, or the jelly's, or the person with the longest hair. We just turn to our partners and take turns asking,talking, listening. Like normal people do. They really can do it, but it does take lots of modeling, prompting, support and practice.
At the beginning of the year I do lots of modeling with stuffed animals. This year it is Piglet and Kanga. They had problems being partners at first, but they are getting much better. Piglet is finally learning that he (he is a boy, right?) can't always talk first, and Kanga is learning that she has to be a good listener when her partner is talking. Thank goodness they are getting the hang of it so they can show the kids what to do! ;o)
 Now they are learning to give compliments to each other and to occasionally be asked to raise their hand and share something great their partner shared or behaved duringa conversation  (LOVE the look on the partner's face :o) when they do this.

Back to my nerdy love of research. I liked this article about engagement from Beyond the Journal and I thought you might like it too!
 (Using Engagement Strategies to Facilitate Children's Learning and Success by Judy Jablon and Michael Wilkinson, Young Children, NAEYC, March 2006). Here's the link:

Using Engagement Strategies to Facilitate Children's Learning and Success

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