Sunday, October 16, 2011

Real Conversations

Authentic, thought provoking, mind-shifting conversations.

I crave them.  They fill my intellectual, emotional and soul buckets.  Seriously, a great conversation is better than a new pair of shoes any day.

As educators, we know that conversation (social talk) is necessary for learning.  This is true not only for us, as teachers, but for our students as well.

We attempt to facilitate conversations with depth and meaning in our classrooms, only to be disappointed. The same students seem to be doing all the talking (we know those students that just like to hear their own voice) or we recognize that they are not really having conversation.  They are reporting what they think or know, but no one is really listening to one another or responding to each other's thoughts.  Students have difficulty staying on one focused topic as they want to switch the talk to their own ideas.

So, how do we help our students engage is real conversation?  (I know I don't want to be the one doing all the talking when I teach.  When I notice I am, I repeat my mantra, "This is not lecture by Shari". Ughhh.)

I think it honestly boils down to listening.

There is a big difference between hearing and listening.  Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by ear.  We hear the wind, or to birds sing, or to the annoying sound the dishwasher makes.  Hearing is happening all the time.  Listening is something you consciously choose to do.  Listening requires us to concentrate so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences we hear.  Listening leads to learning.   I honestly think our students think that if they are hearing, they are listening.  (I'm pretty sure my husband thinks this.)  We need to teach this difference to our students.

Once we understand the difference between hearing and listening, we need to learn "how" to listen.   Understanding the stages of listening is key to this.  These are sensing, understanding, evaluation and responding.  Different authors call these stages different things, but in essence, the stages are all the same.  Again, teach, model and practice these stages.  It cannot be taken for granted that people already know how to listen.

I wonder if our conversations would have more depth is we all knew how to really listen to each other.

I'll let you know.  I'm going to focus on conversation for awhile in hopes to help our kids build better conversations to contribute to their understandings.

First, I have to teach my own kids. . . and husband. ;-)