Conversation is key.
Students are lacking the connections that they used to be able to build in school.
Conversations in the lunch room.
Conversations at lockers.
Conversations on the bus.
Conversations in class.
Students used to be able to have many conversations with their classmates.
But many of those conversation opportunities have come screeching to a halt. I noticed it when our students returned to hybrid instruction. I notice it now that kids are back in a remote learning model. My own children have opined about missing their friends.
I’m here to tell you though that the opportunities are still there. We just have to dig a little bit deeper for them.
I recently watched as a third grade student entered a breakout room with two classmates. He quickly spoke up. He shared an answer to the teacher’s prompt, then encouraged his peers to share an answer. He even discouraged off-topic talk at one point. I was impressed by the young student and his classmates and their willingness to dive into the assignment.
The opportunities are there. We just have to dig deeper.
Around the same time I heard this conversation among students, I was also reading The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. In the book, Parker describes the work of Theodore Zeldin around Conversation Menus. This is a menu of questions that Zeldin creates to host dinners. He wanted to focus on powerful questions that would encourage big talk, not small talk.
As I read about the conversation menus, it dawned on me. The opportunities are there. We just need to dig deeper.
We should be encouraging the use of conversation menus with students. Guide students. Prompt them. Model the use of the conversation menu to have a meaningful discussion. Don’t just leave students on their own to figure it out. Show them the way to have a meaningful conversation, and then get out of the way.
Try this template for creating a conversation menu for your students. (Feel free to edit and change the questions and prompts.)