Language Analysis Project - Analysis Chrissy McClellan Discussion Analysis Mrs. McClellan: “Yesterday, we read chapters nine and ten of The Westing Game. Please take out your written responses. Is there anyone who would like to share? What do you think that the author has done to keep the readers interested in the plot and characters?” In this initial interaction with students, I was providing them with a connection to yesterday’s lesson, and inviting them to take action, to participate in the lesson, and also promoting an environment in which we are learning together. Reflecting on this, it would have been a great opportunity for students to turn and talk, and summarize the previously read chapters with a partner using language that we’ve practiced specifically for summarizing. Mrs. McClellan: “Great example! I love that you took the time to cite evidence from the text. That’s always important. In chapters nine and ten, the author also kept us interested in the story by building tension between the characters. What is a vocabulary word that we could use to describe how the characters were feeling about each other?” “I love that you took the time to cite evidence from the text”, draws attention to an expectation and important skill that my students should know how to do. I also drew attention to a strategy that the author used, and questioned the students to see if anyone could respond with the correct vocabulary word. Mrs. McClellan: “That’s it! Why do you think they were feeling suspicious of each other?” This simple question promotes strategic and critical thinking, and asks student opinion, which also demonstrates that I value their opinions. I wonder if phrasing the question, “I wonder why…” instead would make the conversation more of a group discussion, instead of a teacher-led question. Mrs. McClellan: “You’re absolutely right. They can’t trust each other! Suspicious was one of our vocabulary words from yesterday. Today, we’re going to add two new vocabulary words to our TIP chart. Our first word is alibi. Does anyone This would have been a good place in the discussion to provide an example from the text, of how to cite information to support your opinion. “They can’t trust each other! I know this because….”, or, “Can we think of an example from the text recognize the word alibi? What does it mean?” that demonstrates how our characters can’t trust each other?” Mrs. McClellan: “That’s interesting! I’ve never heard of anyone being named Alibi before. Does anyone else know what it means, or think you know what alibi means?” The comment from a student about “alibi” being a character’s name genuinely interested me. I should follow up with the student and encourage them to teach me more about this text-to-text connection. I also used this comment to invite others to share. We were working together to determine the meaning of an unknown word based on what we already knew. Mrs. McClellan: “No one? That’s okay! Alibi is a noun that means proof a person was somewhere else when a crime occurred. It’s like an excuse. For example, if a bank in Gainesville were to be robbed, and the police found a teacher’s badge at the scene of the crime, they might come and interview teachers at our school. Let’s say they came to me and asked, “Mrs. McClellan, where were you at one o’clock on Friday?”. I would say that I was here, teaching this class. They might ask you, as witnesses, to verify my alibi...my excuse. In the text, our characters will need to have alibis to prove they didn’t murder Mr. Westing! I explicitly told students what the word alibi means after it became evident that they did not know. Providing a fun, realistic, but imaginary example allowed the students to build a connection that will help them remember the word in the future. Then, we drew back to the text. This would have been a great chance for students to turn and talk to each other and come up with their own examples of an alibi. Our next word is coincidence. Coincidence is also a noun that means two events are happening at the same time, without being planned. For example, it’s a coincidence that Ms. Wright and I are dressed alike today. As we’re reading today, I want you to examine how the words alibi and coincidence are used in the text. Open up your books to chapter eleven, and follow along as I read.” Instead of explicitly telling the students what coincidence means, I could have gone through the same questioning process that I did with alibi. This is a word that most students recognized. Also, changing the phrasing to, “Can anyone tell me what…” would have drawn into a teaching-the-teacher scenario, boosting the students’ interest and confidence. Mrs. McClellan: “I remember that clues in mysteries are often details that seem out of place, so I have to look for them. Here, Grace says that Turtle may be helping her father with his bookkeeping. We know that Turtle’s dad is a doctor, with his own office on the first floor of the apartment building, so he must have to do a lot of his own bookkeeping so he can send bills to his patients and order supplies for his office. That makes sense, but then Mr. Hoo starts laughing! Why could he be laughing?” In this instance, the students already hold the knowledge that they need to answer the question. I was evaluating their comprehension, and also their reasoning and inferencing skills. Mrs. McClellan: “That could be true. Think about this, what could the author be trying to say through our characters’ actions?” This statement was intended to encourage students to extend their thinking, and to dive deeper into the text...reading between the lines. Mrs. McClellan: “That’s what I’m thinking! Sometimes, authors give us clues, to make us think and ask questions, and then answers them later in the story. Let’s keep reading to see if the author answers our questions.” I expressed that my beliefs were similar to the students when I said, “That’s what I’m thinking!”. This could provide a boost in confidence and a desire to continue in the conversation, even if the student’s answer isn’t one hundred percent correct yet. I also introduced the students to the asking questions strategy, hoping that they will remember that later when reading independently. Mrs. McClellan: “I’m glad you noticed the I opened up conversation with a question to evaluate their understanding of the word alibi! What’s happening in this text, as well as the previously discussed section of the story?” vocabulary word, now presented to us in context. Mrs. McClellan: “Good job! Does Doug have a very strong alibi? Does anyone remember where he was on the night that Mr. Westing was found dead?” Mrs. McClellan: “Great observation! What is the coincidence in the story?” “Good job!” and, “Great observation!” provide praise for students, but would be better if phrased more specifically, “You’re right! I like how you used context clues to….”, or, “I love how you noticed….” These ways of phrasing those statements would make connections to a strategies that they students may not have realized they were using. I also continued questioning the students to assess comprehension. Mrs. McClellan: “Okay, now that we’ve finished reading, we’re going to pair up in our reading partner pairs and read these two chapters again. Find your partner! While you’re reading, I want you to be thinking about which characters have alibis and which characters have motives.” Partner reading provides time for student discussions that promote a supportive and collaborative learning community.