We just finished our first quadrant of Castles in the Attic and one of the most important parts in the first quadrant is setting up your routines for Turn and Talks. You need to have this system set in place and agreed upon by your students. As you know the beginning of the book has a lot of modeling and practice with the Turn and Talks. This year I created Turn and Talk expectations with my class (we call it “TnT”) It is something that we are still working on each day and I continue to refer to the expectations before we get started reading the story.
I have noticed that some students are very comfortable with the being a “starter” in a Turn and Talk and can lead their conversation with a partner. Then there are times when the whole class starts in unison “When the book said…..” and then it dies off and only my confident students are continuing the conversations while others have stopped and are stuck trying to get their thoughts out. I put the stem for the day on my Smart Board and I move around the room. I make a mental note of which students are comfortable getting started and I focus on who needs a little assistance. I try to find those partners who are still learning how to use the stem in their responses and assist them. I do this in a number of different ways:
- I ask, “What part of the story do you want to talk about?”
- I repeat the Turn and Talk focus question for that section of the story (Is William showing that he is alike or different from Alastor?)
- I pick a part from the book for them to talk about (I only do this a couple of times until they can do it on their own).
This scaffolding is quick and easy by moving around the room listening in on student conversations and jumping in when needed.
Another quick Formative Assessment strategy that I use when our Turn and Talks have finished is I pull a popsicle stick out of a cup with a student’s name on it. I then ask this student to share what they talked about with their partner during their Turn and Talk to the whole class. The best part is when I pull a name for a student that was a “responder” and they can use the stem to repeat back to me what their partner had shared. This tells me that they had a successful TnT! When a student is stuck I assist them by asking questions about their conversation. Who started? What did you share? How did you respond? After the student shares their conversation to the class I pull a second stick. Then I ask that student if they agree or disagree with the first student’s response. Now this covers a couple of things for me:
1. Was this student listening?
2. Is this student thinking deeply about the story?
3. Can they compare and contrast ideas from their Turn and Talk to other students in the room?
4. If they agree, why? If they disagree, why?
5. Can you add any information?
Once we have a couple of people sharing and responding to different groups I pick the book back up and we continue with the story. I try to repeat this routine with at least one Turn and Talk each day. Sometimes I am up against time and I can barely squeeze in all of the Turn and Talks. When this happens I still stop and I model the Turn and Talk with the class. This still gives them the chance to hear the comprehension connections being made during the chapter. This week I even tried having my entire class write out their Turn and Talk on a notecard. I was pressed for time and I wanted a way to check in to see how each student is using the sentence stems. I passed out a notecard and put the stem on the Smart Board. Students quickly wrote their response to the Turn and Talk and I collected it as evidence for my upcoming conferences.
The Turn and Talks can be very valuable and it gives the students some independent practice during your whole group lesson. I try to check in with as many groups as I can during this time. I also use TnT time to work with any students who come in late. I partner up with them to get them caught up in the story.
Happy Turn and Talks!