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Literacy Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Reading Video Clip 1

Instructional focus
Analysis of STAR data revealed that the students needed further support in comprehension at sentence level. Denise had been focusing on exploring meanings in sentences during guided reading sessions with all students. She also balanced this focus by helping students to explore themes and authors' "messages" in the text as a whole.

Further gathering and analysis of data using PROBE identified the need for practice in making inferences. Denise planned opportunities during rich text experiences for her students not only to practise inferring but also to go back into the text to seek evidence for their inferences.

Through planned links to their writing of narrative, Denise also focused in this lesson on identifying and discussing how the author used dialogue to show (not tell) characters' points of view. This focus provided opportunities for students to infer and justify their inferences.

The shared learning intentions for the lesson from which these interactions are taken were:

  • to make inferences to help us understand a character's point of view
  • to identify how the author uses dialogue to show (not tell) a character's point of view.

Watch the video and think about these questions:

Deliberate acts of teaching: feedback

1. Identify examples of feedback that show evidence of effectiveness in:

  • helping students meet the learning intentions
  • building students' metacognitive awareness.

2. What beliefs about literacy teaching and learning underpin such feedback?

Engaging learners with texts

1. What qualities of the text made it an appropriate choice for:

  • providing focused instruction towards meeting the shared learning intentions
  • teaching the comprehension strategy of inference?

Expert comment and transcript

Read teacher Denise Durrant’s thoughts on what she achieved in the session and an analysis of the teacher-student interaction by literacy expert Peter Johnston. Peter (Ph.D. University of Illinois) is Professor of Education and Chair of the Reading Department at State University of New York at Albany. His position as an advocate for teachers and students developed from his early career teaching primary school in New Zealand. His many publications include Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning (Stenhouse 2004), Knowing Literacy: Constructive Literacy Assessment (Stenhouse 1997), and Running Records: A Self-Tutoring Guide (Stenhouse 2000).

Denise Durrant’s reflections
In keeping with the shared learning intentions, the students came in close looking at the theme of the piece and identifying a particular literary device (use of dialogue) to show rather than tell points of view. They practised the strategy of searching for evidence in the text to support their answers to inferential questions.

Students had to back up their answers with evidence from the written words and visuals in the text. I was looking for the links they were making to prior learning during the year. The number of times during the lesson that I gave descriptive feedback that linked to the learning intentions also indicated to me that the students are learning and practising the desired strategies. At the end of the session the students articulated what they had learned and gave examples of when they used a particular strategy. [This is not shown in the interaction.]
The more confident decoders in the group picked up quickly on using the strategy of searching for clues (in this case, examples of dialogue) in the text to support their answers. I had planned to model what they needed to know and do by the questions I asked and the feedback I gave. This shows the effect of the deliberate acts of teaching.

Sam has good ability and is ready to move on. But he does not always process the text and instead has tended to rely on his prior knowledge and experience of life to get meaning and draw conclusions. By asking why he said Dad was angry, I picked up on the opportunity to reinforce the need for him to process the text and to look for evidence in the text to support his conclusions and inferences.
What was reinforced for me as a teacher was how powerful the learning is when you are totally focused on the learning intentions and you deliberately bring the students back to that focus. I now realise that most students will rise to meet your expectation of them. It’s important not to put a ceiling on their learning.

Peter Johnston's comments
Teacher: I want you to discuss it with your neighbour the dialogue that you have found that shows how Dad is handling the situation. 
The strategy of discussing with a neighbour is useful because all the children get to articulate their thinking. They are all involved in construction and extension. Also, the interaction between peers is less hierarchical than with the teacher, which is part of what is learned. If the teacher had only asked one student what they were thinking, that student would be involved in a largely hierarchical interaction and the other students would have been passively involved. Referring to the dialogue is naming a particular text feature. The naming allows it to be taken up in subsequent discussion. (In this case obviously it has been previously named and introduced.)
Student discussion.

Teacher: OK. Have we found some evidence in the dialogue that shows us, not tells us, just shows us how Dad is feeling? Shameela.
Using the word ‘we’ implies that the class is a community working to the same end. Asking the children to find specific evidence for their understanding, is important so that they are able to take responsibility for their own knowledge construction rather than relying on an external authority. This is an example of naming two different writing strategies - showing and telling. The children are asked to attend specifically to one of them by finding examples. (Presumably this distinction has been introduced before.)

Shameela: Um, He chuckled.

Teacher: Is that dialogue? We’re going back and we’re finding the dialogue - where the person talks. 
This is the same as saying ‘That’s not dialogue.’ It would be better to recognise the part of the observation that was appropriate - something like, ‘That does show us how Dad is feeling. However, remember we were going back to look for evidence in the dialogue.’ The teacher also provides a definition of dialogue just in case Shameela or any others have forgotten what dialogue is.

Shameela: Um, ‘That’s fine by me. But there’s no way I’m letting her spoil my morning.’

Teacher: So what does ‘I’m not letting her spoil my morning’  mean?
This response is directed to all the students rather than just Shameela. It keeps them all involved and leaves responsibility for sense-making with them. Importantly, it is not an evaluation, like, ‘good,’ as is often found in this sort of interaction pattern (teacher question, student response, teacher evaluation). 

Thomas: Like, he’s having fun, like, and like she’s going to like probably like I don’t know.

Sam: Like his morning’s fun right now his before that lady came his morning was fun. But now, since she’s taken his carpark, now he’s all angry cause he can’t handle someone taking his carpark, so he’s got all angry.  
Two student responses in a row, one following up on the other. The teacher has left time for this to happen. However, at this point she jumps in, interrupting the student to make sure the focus of the lesson is maintained.

Teacher: Has Dad got angry? Where does it say that?
Asking for evidence leaves responsibility for meaning construction with the students.

Sam: Like he’s all, up here, he’s got all angry with her cause he took her she took his carpark

Teacher: Show me where it says he’s angry. 
The teacher insists on specific evidence, or warrants, for the claim.

Sam: Like it - well, it doesn’t really say it - like it,  like…

Student: It’s obvious!
This comment shows that students are not intimidated by the teacher’s authority but also show the need for insisting on evidence.

Teacher: What do you think, Shameela? Do you think that Dad is angry? Or do you think Dad is calm?
This establishes Shameela as a person who thinks and the options focus Shameela’s response. It also opens up the possibility of, and encourages, different opinions. 

Shameela: He could be, like inside, not really showing it.

Teacher: So you think he’s not showing it. OK, so...
The teacher restates Shameela’s suggestion as a position rather than as a possibility. This seems like a prompt more toward argument than toward exploratory discourse which would be signalled by something like, So you’re saying it’s possible that (or maybe) he feels angry but isn’t showing it?

Shameela: There’s no way I’m letting her spoil my morning?

Teacher: Mmm, that’s a key piece of dialogue to me, ‘There’s no way I’m letting her spoil my morning'. So he’s turning it around and he’s going to make himself feel happy again. Right? 
This would be very different in terms of implied authority if the words ‘to me’ were left off - adding them allows that other people might have different views. The teacher pauses before ‘around’ to invite prediction, but realises it is not a good place to do that, so the pause is short. The same happens before ‘happy’, though it is a more likely spot. These pauses invite construction by the students to fill in the blank. The ‘Right?’ asks the students to verify the teacher’s view as the correct one. A different way to approach the discussion would be, ‘It sounds to me like' or, 'Do you think he maybe thought he might get mad but decided not to?' These would maintain uncertainty and require students to think through possibilities. 

Teacher: The question is, what is Dad’s reaction? And we’re trying to infer that information from those two sentences. What do you think now, Shameela?
By using ‘to infer’ the teacher names the process so it can be recognised and referred to easily.

Shameela: He’s calm and happy?
Shameela now thinks that there is a right answer to be had and that she might or might not have it. 

Teacher: What gave you the clue there? How did you infer that?
Using the definite article with the clue confirms Shameela’s suspicion that there is a correct answer to be had. It also suggests that there was a single clue to be used (and others would be wrong). At the same time, this second part of the teacher’s question reveals the process, names it again, and requires pointing to the evidence. It also sets up the child to potentially tell an agentive narrative. Take control, act strategically and so develops a sense of agency.

Shameela: He was feeling happy cause he laughed and he started singing.

Teacher: How did you know he laughed? What word told you he laughed? 
The teacher again insists on pointing to the textual evidence.

Shameela: It says ‘while he was sitting he chuckled’.

Teacher: He chuckled. What you were doing there was you inferred that he was happy and laughed by looking at the word ‘chuckled’. That was great, you were using this strategy here, so that’s fantastic. Anyone want to add to that?
This again highlights the inference strategy posted on the chart. Praise for the use of the strategy shows Shameela (and the others) that it is a good thing to do. However, it seems that she is not really convinced that she did anything in particular, just that she was good. An alternative comment would be to point to the usefulness of what she did. The conversation had been brought down to Shameela and the teacher, and the strategy of asking if anyone would like to add anything opens the conversation up again. 

Tarryn: Yeah and, um, he wouldn’t sing if he was mad.

Teacher: No, so we’re starting to get the feeling he’s quite OK about it, he’s quite happy.
Using the word ‘we’re’ helps to build the idea of a common community of readers, embarking on a process of figuring something out starting to get the feeling rather than just getting the teacher’s interpretation. This keeps open the possibility that more evidence might affect the interpretation.

Sam: I reckon, like, he was quite mad, but then he sung his favourite old song to calm him down.

Teacher: Oh, so he was using a strategy of calming himself down. What a big man he was, yeah, clever.
This comment honours Sam’s observation as an original contribution. At the same time, it reminds children of the value of strategic action and connects it to Dad’s identity/character. However the word ‘Yes’ is unnecessary and risks taking Sam’s contribution away from him by implying that the teacher already knew this.

Student: Big man.

Student: About the same as my dad.
This student comment draws laughter from the teacher. The teacher laughing with the students (at a student joke) improves both their relationship and the students’ breathing, mental health, etc.

Teacher: What do you think the author is actually trying to tell us here?

Sam: Um, even though, like, they took your park you shouldn’t yell at them cause it’s not right, it’s have courtesy to other people?

Teacher: Have courtesy, cool. Yes, that’s good thinking. And was it the end of the world?
The word ‘Yes’ is also unnecessary for the same reason stated above. The following comment foregrounds the idea that thinking is the important thing. However, it also opens the possibility that thinking comes in good and bad varieties. The question adds an aspect of the story ‘ the consequence’  for the students to apply to their own lives. The teacher connects the strategic act to its consequences rather than simply labelling it as good.

Students: No.

Teacher: So, perhaps this key word here ... back was for Dad ... was ... he said it to the children, right down there in that last piece of dialogue.
The word ‘perhaps’ maintains the openness of the interpretation, leaving it as a possible interpretation rather than the interpretation. This makes possible alternative interpretations and contributions. 

Students: He said, ‘Just be patient,’ he said.
Students have the idea of looking for textual evidence at this point. This textual reference is co-constructed with the students. 

Teacher: Just be patient. And perhaps the author is telling us to be patient. And keep cool and he didn’t retaliate, and that kind of makes him a big man.

Again, the use of ‘perhaps’ leaves the interpretation open to be disagreed with or built upon. At the same time it inclines toward the need for evidence one way or the other. The final observation refers the interpretation back to the title of the story for the students, helping them see that connection.

Published on: 22 Mar 2016