Half of the time I don’t know what they’re talking about; their jokes seem to relate to a past that everyone but me has shared. I’m a foreigner in the world and I don’t understand the language.
My daughter Maya and I are part of a Mother-Daughter group that meets monthly (here’s a link to the project that inspired our start http://www.themother-daughterproject.com/ourstory.htm). There are ten of us, five mothers and five teenage daughters. During the last meeting Ella and Hope taught us the stick game. There were no rules; you paid attention in order to learn how to play.
Hope started, “Are you ready? Okay. I can play the stick game, stick game, stick game. I can play the stick game. Can you?” She tapped her shoulders and knees with the stick for each syllable, alternating from left to right.
Ella followed, “I’m ready. Okay. I can play the stick game, stick game, stick game. I can play the stick game. Can you?” She tapped her cheeks and the top of her head.
Then one of the moms took a try, “I can play the stick game, stick game, stick game. I can play the stick game. Can you?” She mimicked exactly what Ella had done, but both Hope and Ella agreed, “You can’t play the stick game yet.” She was confused.
The game continued with each of us trying to say the words right and tap the stick correctly. My attempts got more ridiculous as time went on. I tapped myself with the stick multiple times and tried to copy each of the girls and moms who were “in the know” of the stick game, but I was told I still couldn’t play the stick game.
I flashed back to my days as a beginning teacher. This is exactly what it felt like! I tried to watch the masters around me. I invariably couldn’t figure out all the rules to the game. One time I shared in the staff lounge that I was reading Superfudge to my third graders. The group got quiet. “But that’s a fourth-grade book,” a teacher said. “If you read it, it will spoil it for next year.” Another time I took my students outside to observe and write. A teacher in a classroom nearby had her door propped open, and she informed me my class was distracting her students. When I confided in another teacher she said, “We all go to the other side because of her complaints.”
It turns out that the key element of the stick game is not how you say the chant or how you tap the stick. In fact, it doesn’t involve the stick at all. You simply need to say “okay” before beginning. Okay! I felt free as soon as I’d broken the code! It was a good reminder to me about letting young teachers, all teachers for that matter, in on the “unspoken” rules.
This week we’re featuring a wealth of resources for helping students crack that code of responding well to their peers. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Senior Editor, Choice Literacy
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Here are two essays from the Choice Literacy archives to help you teach students to respond kindly and thoughtfully to each other.
In Peer Conferring: Modeling, Amanda Adrian writes about the the power of demonstration lessons for building peer response skills:
Katie Doherty takes a hard look at the behaviors of her middle school students midyear and revisits basic Literacy Rights and Responsibilities to rebuild the community:
Penny Kittle, author of Book Love, talks about how to inspire a passion for reading in adolescents in a new podcast:
Happy Birthday Author is a wonderful blog for planning celebrations around authors’ birthdays, with calendars of upcoming birthdays, fun biographical tidbits, and links to books:
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Ann Marie Corgill questions whether her second graders are ready for peer response. She finds with some guidance and construction of anchor charts together the answer is a resounding yes:
Tony Keefer discovers his fourth-grade students need focused instruction and support to strengthen their peer conferring skills. Tony shares tips and two video examples from his classroom:
Katie DiCesare helps her first graders learn to respond to classmates’ writing by rereading a list of student-generated question prompts for writing share time in this week’s bonus video:
Midwinter is the perfect time to revisit class chores. Keri Archer describes her process of creating a jobs list for her kindergartners, as well as how she has adapted the tasks based on the evolving class community:
Thank You for Arguing from Heather Rader is the second installment of our new series on teaching argument/opinion writing:
Finally, if you’re looking for more ideas to strengthen peer response, the Building Community features dozens of resources:
That’s all for this week!