Day 6: Excitement graphs and Socratic seminars

Excitement Graphs

These were very fun and definitely adaptable to primary!  The graphs are visual representations of the action or excitement in the story.  It's a great way to show kids what a climax is and how it is the most exciting part.

We started by reading (or listening to) a picture book.  As we read, we wrote down the events that happened.  Then we decided which were the "main events."  Next we thought of words to describe the events on a scale from boring to super exciting.  There were ten slots for words (along the y-axis) and mediocre was put in the middle.  After some experimentation, we figured that temperature words may be easier for kiddos to use.  The x-axis was used to label the events: Exposition (introduction of characters and setting), Conflict, Rising Action (there can be several of these), Climax, Falling Action (again, there can be many depending on the story), and Resolution.  We picked a symbol/picture to represent each event from the book and graphed it according to what kind of event and how exciting it was.  Once we graphed them, the concepts of rising action, climax, and falling action were very clear on the graph.

Pros for kinder: 

This activity can be a fun way to practice sequencing and retell.  The kids can then manipulate the events of the story when retelling/sequencing in a not-so-linear-way to add some spunk to the lesson.  I would also limit the y-axis to less degrees of excitement to make it easier to graph.  For my ELLs, deciding on excitement words (or temperature words) would be a lesson in itself, but a good one for vocabulary building.  I definitely plan on using this!

Socratic Seminars

OK...this title is intimidating all in itself, so I'll break it down as much as possible!  Basically, this is a technique that focuses on inquiry and discussion.  First, you need a topic.  It can be a book/story read in class, a theme, or something else that kids will have a lot to say about.  Next you'll need to let the kids read the text or learn about the theme.  They will need some solid background information to participate.  Therefore, this is an activity designed more for the middle to end of a unit.  After the kids have some background (multiple texts that support the same topic are even better) you let them think of questions: 
World Connection: How does this apply to...?  What would you do if you were...?
Open-Ended: Why did the character...?  Why did the author...?
Universal Theme: How has this...?  Why is this...?

Once kids have some ideas of what they want to talk about, split them up into two groups.  The groups will make up two concentric circles.  The circle on the inside has a conversation (using the questions they made and going from there), and the outside circle watches quietly, evaluating the conversation.  The inside circle can talk for 10-15 minutes (hopefully engaging in meaningful conversation about the topic).  Then the outside circle can have a few minutes about the conversation (what went well, what they noticed, who spoke, what the conversation focused on, etc.).  The outside circle does NOT add to the conversation; they only comment about it.  After the commentary, the two groups switch and repeat the process.

This one is tough because the teacher is not involved- we have to sit back and let it be (so easy, right?).  The point is to let the kids build up to a meaningful conversation.  They will need practice getting to the topic and staying there, but it's not the teacher's job to get them there.  The outside circle can comment later that not everyone talked, or that they spent too much time off topic.  They have to keep each other accountable.  You can also keep track of who is talking and give credit accordingly.  Someone suggested documenting the frequency of talking to show that not talking at all or dominating a conversation are not OK.

The point: get kids talking!  Get them contributing to the academic community in a meaningful and purposeful way.  Get them engaged in the conversation and committed to the topic.

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