Can I use the disagree one with you?

As I finished up the last couple chapters in Peter Johnston’s Opening Minds, I was continuously reminded of the importance to be fair with you students.

Johnston (2012) discusses social reasoning, caring and social action in chapter 7. The quote on page 87 stood out to me as I reflected on our guided reading flex grouping.

“Discipline that foregrounds the emotional consequences of a behavior or intended behavior expands both children’s level of sympathy and their prosocial behavior.”
“The logic strengthens the relationship that is the basis for the student’s compliance, and when teachers are seen as caring, students are socially and academically more motivated.”

This past month we started flex grouping the second grade students during guided reading. We had to assign the students to groups based on their MClass Decoding scores as well as their comprehension scores. This was a long process which I am noticing is changing weekly. For the first few days, we spent our time learning the procedures for guided reading, how to walk into the classroom and what our expectations were to be a successful group.

This is the first time this year that I have worked with a small group that is composed of 4 different classrooms. It was also the first time I saw the difference in the behavior of the students. The students wait outside the door to enter the classroom and this is why the above quotes stand out to me.

Student 1: He called me dumb and told me to shut up
Student 2: Nuh uh. I didn’t!
Teacher: Did you tell him that you did not like that?
Student 1: No
Teacher: Tell him that you did not like that he called you dumb and said shut up.
Student 1: I did not like it when you said those things to me.
Teacher: Tell him that you did not like that he called you dumb and said shut up.
Student 1: I did not like that you called me dumb and said shut up.
Student 2: Sorry.
Teacher: No you need to say that you are sorry for calling her dumb and saying shut up.
Student 2: Sorry for calling you dumb and saying shut up.
Student 1: It is okay.
Teacher: It would hurt my heart if someone called you dumb and said shut up.
Student 2: Yea that would not be very nice. (smiles and hugs the teacher) 

Well I am not saying that this example is correct or that is the way to have the students interact with one another, the point that stood out to me was the way student 2 changed his feelings about the situation. At first he was very defensive and then after the teacher expressed that he cared he was smiling and hugging the teacher.

Another piece that stood out to me is how students need to be guided with sentence starters throughout the day, Student 1 needed prompting several times to tell Student 2 that she did not like the words that he used. She was not specific enough and needed to be reminded of the strategies. I also notice that so many times students are prone to tattling to get the other student in trouble, but then never really solving their own problems. This leading to a problem in the long run.

Johnston (2012) discusses the importance of social problems on page 91 “Social problems offer concrete spaces for understanding different perspectives, understanding and managing emotions, learning strategies for negotiating social conflict, and asserting a commitment to fairness.” Students need to be exposed to different social problems; problems that they are part of as well as problems that can solve together. Education is not just learning information from books but rather how to be successful in the social environment.

One part of my classroom that I have encouraged this year is the use of “argumentation strategies” (Johnston, 2012). I have given my students sentence starters to encourage conversations where not all students agree. At the beginning of the year I introduced a topic for discussion. I stood in the front and my students saw me as the leader and they were going to listen. I have to admit that the lesson did not go as planned. I then introduced the sentence starters similar to Johnson’s on page 88. I have noticed that my students use the sentence starters with one another, during group work, when we are discussing background knowledge or introducing a new topic, but my absolute favorite is with me. They are starting to see themselves as the teachers.

This past week, a little girl asked “You know how we use those sentence starters to agree and disagree with our friends. Can I use the disagree one with you?” I was so happy to see a student that wanted to share what they knew and knew how to argue in a respectful and responsible way. I cannot say I even remember what she disagreed on (most likely she was right) but I was just so happy to see the growth in my classroom and the independence that my students are showing!



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