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    New: Year Four Discussion Questions

    August 29, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    Last week went well for a first week, I think. At the end of it, though, I found myself thinking that I could easily let my Year Four student slide because I’m working so hard to get my Year One student off to a good start. Because she doesn’t yet read well, I need to be with her for every. single. thing. I don’t mind–not at all! But I did find myself tempted to ignore my oldest, since he is self-motivated and able to learn a lot all by himself.

    One of the things I noticed near the end of Year Three was that E.-Age-Nine was slowly gaining greater and greater ability to really discuss what he had read. I’m not just talking about narration, but about the actual ideas embodied in the text. He was also making connections between what he read in one place, and what he had read somewhere else in a book, or even his Bible.

    Not long ago, Naomi over at Living Charlotte Mason in California quoted Dr. Carroll Smith on the steps involved in narration:

    1. Teacher introduces the new text
    2. Student recreation of old text
    3. Reading of living book text
    4. Narration of living book text
    5. Grand conversation

    If you click over, there is a brief description of each step. What I want to focus on here is the description of grand conversation:

    Following the narration children need to be able to share their reactions and ask questions — their reactions and questions. Following the conversation they have had with the author through reading and narrating, the children now need to be able to have a conversation with the teacher and their fellow students about what the author said in the text. Here, the teacher talks with the students and not at the students.

    Some children are big talkers and will naturally start doing this. But other children will need to be trained, and all can benefit from honing their skills a little.

    Saturday night, as I did my pre-reading for the week, I wrote down a question for each reading. I tried to muster everything I’ve learned from Andrew Kern as far as asking a good, idea-provoking question {though I’m sure practice will help, too}. This is my attempt to guarantee grand conversation through preparation. I would love to do it on the fly, but the truth is that I’m more likely to be paying attention to my Year One student rather than engaging fully in my Year Four student’s narration. This ought to help me focus and give him the thorough education that he deserves, even if his mommy isn’t yet a master of managing multiple students.

    My thought was that perhaps some of you who are unable to pre-read, or just want some ideas, would enjoy seeing my weekly questions. Obviously, the first question is, “Do you {student} have any questions?” And if they do, a grand conversation will start all on its own. But if they don’t, or if they are the type to need a little prodding, this might get them started. Socrates wasn’t afraid to ask questions, and we shouldn’t be, either.

    My plan is to post my questions most every Tuesday here on Afterthoughts. Now that school has started, I can’t write a long article everyday anyhow. Tomorrow, the first set of questions will go live. If you have written up discussions questions, or have ones that you asked spontaneously and found success with, I’d love for you to share them in the comments as we go along!

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  • Reply Mama Squirrel August 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Hi Brandy! I’ve tagged you for a meme!

  • Reply Anonymous August 30, 2011 at 4:27 am

    I have a year 4 and a year 1 student also, and could have written your first paragraph myself! I am loving your blog, thank you for the effort you put into it. 🙂

    Grace and peace,
    Jenn in KS

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