Teaching conversations is tough! I have lessons all about convos, I act out a conv with students to model, and I even provide them with Conversation starter bookmarks! These bookmarks are perfect to get started and to scaffold students. But... make sure they don't use them as a crutch. I know when I talk to my friends I don't go around saying, "I agree with you because... I disagree with you because...." This seem to be students' "go to" response.
One way I have found to make conversations about literature more meaningful is through Book Clubs. Students on the same reading level read the same books, record stop and jots for talking points, and then discuss their thinking.
Of course it doesn't happen over night. I have to do a lot of modeling and I explicitly teach them my expectations of their roles as speakers and listeners.
We also talk about being a Hog or being a Log. A Hog is someone who hogs the conversation and doesn't give anyone else a chance to speak or respond. A Log is someone who just sits there like a Bump on a Log, not adding any value to the conversation, they just take up space. This seems to really stick with them and I can often hear them reminding each other, "You're starting to act like a log." or "Please don't hog the conversation." Kiddos don't know this unless we point it out to them!
When students are ready to go out into the world... I mean start Book Clubs... I give each of them a Conversation Starter Bookmark. We are doing Mystery Book Clubs right now, so I give them the Mystery Bookmark. Again, this is just to scaffold and pretty soon, it will literally just be a bookmark and nothing more.
Most groups are fine after this and just need monitoring and reminders. Because we don't live in fairy tale land, every now and then, you will get that ONE group that can't seem to get along. There's always someone crabbing or someone not participating. For a group like this, I resort to the Talking Stick or Stuffed Animal. Group members are not allowed to speak unless they have the Talking Stick. If they have a question or a response for the speaker, they must raise their hand and wait to be given the Talking Stick.
If you still have those few kiddos who refuse to share or just sit there like a log, I also have resorted to cubes, poker chips, or game pieces. Each student gets three chips that they must use by the end of the club to either respond using a conversation starter, or ask a question.
What ideas do you have? I'd love to hear them in the comments!
Most years my kiddos can't wait for Book Clubs! They LOVE getting with their group members so that they can talk about their books. I feel this motivation really stems from MYSTERIES! When students act like detectives and try to work together to solve a mystery, they have a new purpose. You can check out what we are doing in my Mystery Book Club Unit.