Last year Language Arts teacher Sean O’Connor was one of our first teachers to help us pilot written conversation strategies that we had learned about from Harvey Daniels. After attending a Reading the City institute with Daniels, Nancy Steineke (among other notable literacy leaders) this past January, Sean returned even more energized about the possibilities of written conversation strategies for inquiry and learning. He decided to incorporate and modify the write around learning structure as part of the pre-search process for his AP Literature students who were beginning a literary research paper; not only did he utilize the LibGuide we created for the assignment, but he wanted to use our Learning Studio area in our library as the space for the written conversations come to life.
After two days of some initial pre-search, students came to the Learning Studio with some general themes or topics in mind. Sean tells us the game plan he designed to facilitate their next steps:
Below, watch our video story of what this form of inquiry centered learning looked like with one of his three class sections. The energy, the depth of conversation, and the engagement the students exhibited in wrestling with ideas and thinking together was exciting and joyful to watch.
Part 1: First Steps: Jot Down Ideas You Have For Your Research
Part 2: Responding to Each Other’s Topic with Large Post-Its and Pens
Part 3: Forming Birds of Feather Groups by Topics
Part 4: Talking, No Writing
Part 5: Post-Conversation—Noting Key Ideas, Narrowing Topic/Research Topic/Thesis Statement and Next Steps Post Collaborative Thinking
The collaborative thinking and how students played off each other’s input and the group conversations to help them move from Point A to Point B as part of the presearch phase and topic narrowing continuum/process was what made this activity so authentic and meaningful to students. As Sean said, “My original timeline for the project is shot, but that doesn’t matter. The students learning in this way is what counts.” Jennifer and I are thrilled that we can be part of this kind of mindset and collaboration with teachers like Sean and his students. We are excited to see how they build on Friday’s activity in our Learning Studio and their next steps with their research project! A heartfelt thank you to Sean O’Connor and his students for allowing me to film and photograph their work.