Sunday, January 30, 2011

Different Types of Classroom Talk

After reading this week’s articles, I was able to relate a lot of Langer’s different types of classroom talk to my placement classroom. Right now I’m placed at Midway Elementary School in a fourth grade classroom and this semester I’ve been given the responsibility and role of leading one of the five literature circle groups. My lit circle group is composed of five students all reading and writing at higher than average levels compared to their peers, and I was able to make several connections between the Langer article and what I’ve seen/heard so far within my lit group. One type of classroom talk that is discussed in the article is what Langer refers to as envisionment. This type of talk gages whether or not the reader fully understands the text and as the literature circle leader, it’s my responsible that the students are analyzing and decoding the text not just reading to read. Final envisionment is what the students get at the end of the reading and some ways to make sure they are gaining a deep understanding is asking them to infer and ask questions along the way. This past Monday when I met with my lit circle, I first read them the title and summary of the story which gave them a basic understanding of the text. We then took turns reading a page of the story and I explained confusing or advanced words to them as we read. After the story was finished, I asked them if they liked it and why or why not. I then gave them the task to re-read the story with a partner and to mark an “I” for inference, “?” for question, “S” for sympathy for a character(s), and “NS” for no sympathy. This journal entry helps the students build envisionment and by discussing their writing with their peers, it allows their envisionment to change overtime. By taking on the role of lit circle leader, I’m scaffolding the students and guiding response-centered talks. The learning resources available to the students that help promote these rich discussions, are the literature circle books that contain a variety of challenging short stories and their reading journals where they’re given the opportunity to reflect and relate to these stories.

Another type of classroom talk that Langer discusses in the article is the different “stances” that students can take. The first stance is Being Out and Stepping In which is the initial contact students have with the text using their prior knowledge and analyzing surface features. My lit group students are at this stage before we start reading the story and briefing go over the author, title, summary, and key terms. The next stance is Being In and Moving Through which is when students begin reading the story while using text and background knowledge to develop a deeper meaning and students reach this stage while they’re reading the story for the first time. The third stance is Being In and Stepping Out which is when students use what they’ve read to reflect on their own lives and students reach this type of talk when they’re reading the story for the second time either with a partner or individually. Finally, the last stance is Stepping Out and Objectifying the Experiences which is when you objectify, judge, and relate the text to experiences of yourself and others. My lit group students are at this stage when we meet together a week later after reading the story to go over what they’ve written in their writing journals. By sharing their thoughts, ideas, questions, etc. with the group, they are able to learn and build off of each other.


  1. I think it is really cool that you are able to lead one of the literature groups in your placement. After reading all of the readings for this week, it sounds like your CT definitely understands how to get the students to effectively respond to what they are reading. I am also placed in a fourth grade classroom and it is interesting to hear about what your classroom does after reading compared to what mine does. Both the Winstein and Mignano and the Almasi readings described the difference between having a recitation after reading verses having a discussion. In my placement I very rarely have seen an actual discussion take place, most of what happens I would classify as a recitation. The questions that my CT asks the students do not allow them to think beyond the reading and they are never given the time to form meanings or opinions with the readings. I really like how your CT has the students re-read to inference, come up with questions, and to sympathize with what they are reading. By having them do this the students are able to interact with the story and therefore are expanding their thinking process and learning to see alternative points of view.

  2. I found it very interesting that your teacher still participates in what seems like "stations" because I wouldn't expect fourth graders to practice such a childish scenario. However, it seems to be working because the students in your group are able to go above and beyond an actual whole group recitation and instead participate in a discussion since all the students in your group are of the same reading level. According to Triplett, students who participated in instructional conversations about texts achieve at higher levels on standardized reading tests. I would be curious to know what the other groups talk about in their reading groups or if the discussion only takes place with the higher achieving students. My placement is also in a fourth grade class and as a class they discuss short stories they read during class. For example, today they read "The Stranger" as a whole class and throughout the story the author never defines who this stranger is. He gives hints and little tid-bits about who the stranger could be, but he never comes out and actually says it. At the end of the story after some discussion on the story, the teacher asked the students who the stranger might be. The class came up with a ton of answers, each with a valid reasoning behind it, and every once in a while other classmates would agree on one "stranger" until another student suggested something else. This was a very long discussion about the stranger and as a whole class they were able to convince their peers more than once on who the stranger could be.

  3. Just like Danielle said, it's very interesting to hear about your fourth graders compared to mine. I get to observe a lot of language arts taking place (this usually takes up the whole morning) but I barely ever see the students having a thorough discussion. Right now they are reading "Joey Pigza Swallowed The Key" and since I've been observing I have yet to see a discussion. As stated in Weinstein and Mignano, recitations often emphasize the recall of factual information and demand little higher-level thinking. After reading my CT will ask questions such as what happened to Joey in the office, what did he do to be sent to the office, how did the teacher react? These type of questions only involve the students to recall or look back in their book for the answer, and then they're finished. Many, many times this has happened and Chapter 10 of Weinstein and Mignano has made me realize that the students dont really need to 'think' to answer these questions, but rather 'remember' the answer. I can think of many 'analysis questions' that would require a deeper thinking, but my CT is satisfied after asking them questions and then moving on. I think teachers need to be more aware of the different stances Langer talks about. These stances not only require the students to understand the text, but it also requires them to give real-life examples, reflect on their own experiences, and use background knowledge to develop a deeper meaning. I think this is a great strategy not only for the students but also for the teacher to evaluate the students understanding.