The Power of Conversation



Oral language is powerful. Often times it is forgotten as children move up in the intermediate grades. Language can transform countries, solve world problems and allow students a chance to shine.  I had such an impacting reading lesson this morning and needed to write about it. Here is what happened…


I am introducing the story THE KEEPING QUILT by Patricia Polacco. This story is written in the 1st person from Patricia’s point of view about a special quilt that has been passed down from generations to generations. I designed a presentation to preview the unknown vocabulary words. As we are talking about the vocabulary words in the large group setting we encountered the word poverty. Due to the similarity of the word “poverty” and “puberty” one of my kids asked if poverty and puberty were related. I had to think on my feet and come to some explanation as to why the two words weren’t related. I was laughing while trying to keep a straight face. I thought it was awesome for the students to notice the spelling patterns within the words. As we progressed through the different words I had kids left and right raising their hands and willing to participate with the classroom discussion. It was so engaging for the kids to watch the slide show and be able to make connections each word and share their ideas. Not only were a lot of the words related to the Hebrew word family, the story also had such Jewish roots. This immediately connected with over 50% of my class.

After we previewed the vocabulary words I had the kids take clipboards and post-its and sit in my library carpet. I proceeded to read out loud the story. I didn’t want to give too much information from the text with the exception of reading it for meaning. While we read, I had the kids use post its to think of good questions while we read. At one point in the story one of my struggling students made a huge loud Aha. As he started to write his question he was thinking of on his post his tongue stuck out a little bit out of his mouth and he was really excited about writing something… I was curious about his question so I glanced over and he covered it up so I couldn’t see which I thought was interesting…. After we finished the story I broke the kids up into conversation groups. Their task was to go into their groups and have a discussion about the questions that they wrote down. I started to wander around listening to conversation and I happened to be standing near the young boy when he asked his group an awesome question… (background knowledge about the story: In the olden days in Russia, jewish people didn’t celebrate weddings together. All of the men would celebrate in one area and dance together while all the women would dance and celebrate with the bride. )

Danny (struggling student): “Why do you guys think they celebrated the weddings in the beginning of the book separate and then at the end of the book nowadays they celebrate together?”

Group members comments: “I don’t know….” “That is interesting, I’m not sure why they would do that?”

Nick (high achiever): I think it is because it is their religion that they are following.

Danny : I think it is kinda like electricity.

Group Members: What? What are you talking about?

Danny: “Well, electricity changed didn’t it? A long time ago people didn’t have electricity. Over time someone invented electricity and the all of a sudden people had it. It changed over time. Just like Culture… Culture changes over time and a long time ago people couldn’t dance together and now they can.”

Group: Ahhhhh, that makes sense….

What an awesome display of communicating his idea. Danny really shined in taking an abstract idea to others and explaining it in terms so everyone in his group could understand. I wish I could have had a tape recorder at that moment of “aha” for all of the kids. I was a perfect example of a struggling student academically shine through conversation. I am so happy to see that result of today’s lesson.