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In this podcast episode, we delve into the power of meaningful conversations in education, emphasizing the role of educators in fostering student voices, creating safe spaces for student expression, and setting monumental goals for academic growth. Kara presents tons of useful student-led discussion strategies, and of course, we tackle the challenges of teaching students to engage in discussions about issues of justice and equity.
Kara Pranikoff is an educator in New York City. She has worked as a classroom teacher; reading interventionist; Instructional Coach; curriculum designer; and an adjunct instructor at Bank Street College of Education. As a consultant Kara partners with school to nurture independent thinking, voice and a sense of belonging for all members of the community. She supports educators in deepening their practice of inquiry-based teaching of social studies and writing. Kara’s book, Teaching Talk: A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking and Conversation (Heinemann, 2017) shares ways to foster productive and independent student discussions in elementary and middle school classrooms.
The Big Dream
Kara’s dream for educators is to keep their eye on the big picture of education. We are raising humans! As educators, we walk alongside children on their journey of growth.
Alignment to the 4 Stages: Mindset, Pedagogy, Assessment, and Content
Educators who can adopt an abundance mindset and understand that nurturing student voices is a process are going to be highly effective.
For pedagogy, we want to co-create an environment of understanding between teachers and students, set community agreements, and provide time for conversation and reflection.
For assessment, we can create an artifact of student-led conversations and of course, have clear expectations for what teachers and students should ideally be doing in a student-led discussion.
As far as content, discussion should revolve around topics relevant to students and their life experiences.
Mindset Shifts Required
We have the time and resources for what is truly important. We can remind ourselves (and our teachers) that nurturing student voices is a process that requires patience and deep listening.
Step 1: Be clear and explicit with your students about the fact that you are working to ensure their ideas are central is really important.
Step 2: Set community agreements about what talking and listening (i.e., a good discussion) is going to look like and feel like in the community.
Step 3: Invite students to share some ideas they want to talk about—maybe based on a text that you just read. Then, students can vote on what they want to talk about. Go with it!
Step 4: After a discussion, provide dedicated time for reflection and student autonomy to problem-solve and explore how they experienced the discussion and what they might want to change moving forward.
Step 5 (ongoing): Curate sparks! (e.g., images, topics, quotes, song lyrics that might generate student conversation)
Overcoming the fear of saying the wrong thing during difficult conversations and navigating conversations about justice and equity.
Action steps for this challenge:
Teachers may also feel pressure to keep conversations on track and avoid tangents.
Action steps for this challenge:
One Step to Get Started
Find a friend or a coach to help navigate the process. This person can provide support and help with preparing responses to difficult conversations.
Also, communicate with parents and caretakers from the get-go about the pedagogical approach and the importance of open conversations in the classroom.
You can find Kara on her website: www.eyesopeneducation.com.
To help you implement the ideas in this episode, Kara is sharing her Partner Talk Data Collection Resource with you for free. And, if you’re looking for more details on the ideas in this blog post, listen to episode 138 of the Time for Teachership podcast. If you’re unable to listen or you prefer to read the full episode, you can find the transcript here.
If you enjoyed this episode, check out my YouTube channel where I show you how to turn worksheets, lesson plans, etc into templates:
For transcripts of episodes (and the option to search for terms in transcripts), click here!
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Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.