This school year, ELA teachers at Walton Middle School have committed to turning the heavy lifting of learning over to their students, intentionally designing lessons that provide students opportunities to deeply think, write, and discuss their ideas.
This week, sixth grade ELA teachers Rachel Jones and Brendon Murphy, with the support of instructional coach, Kristen Nelson, joined forces and introduced the fishbowl strategy to their students—a collaborative discussion protocol that allows students to meaningfully discuss texts they’ve been reading and studying. Combining classes, the team first introduced the strategy’s steps to students, modeling how to have an interactive student-led discussion. In the classroom fishbowl, students formed two circles. Students in the center circle were in the fishbowl, leading and carrying on a text-dependent conversation about Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, a novel they’ve been reading. These students were provided sample question stems to help them consider appropriate ways to voice their analysis, opinions, and questions about the text. While the inner circle students conversed with each other, students in the outer circle observed the process, taking notes about insightful comments heard, text evidence offered, and personal connections made.
At the end of the student-led conversation, each class debriefed about the process itself, considering “glows” (strengths of the activity) and “grows” (opportunities for improvement next time). WMS teachers are committed to working together to help students become independent learners, thoughtfully providing them with opportunities to develop their own unique voices. Yet again, the “we, not me” spirit thrives in classrooms at WMS.