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November 2014 | Volume 72 | Number 3
Talking and Listening
Ellin Oliver Keene
Waiting in silence for students to think before responding can, at first, be uncomfortable for everyone. But oh, the insights they'll share!
Adyana is a 9-year-old English language learner with long, wavy, dark-brown hair, impeccably pulled back into a ponytail, and she's sitting on the floor of her 3rd grade classroom with her classmates. About 20 teachers observe. Everyone is waiting for her to speak. She stares straight into the floor. I've been reading aloud Charlotte Zolotow's A Father Like That (HarperCollins, 2007), and Adyana has just shared a superficial retelling of the story: "That kid is telling about not having a dad."
I've asked her to share more thinking. She looks startled, as though she'd assumed that I'd listen to her contribution and then move on to the other students who are eager to share. Isn't that the way it's supposed to work? The teacher asks a question, the student shares a response, and then the teacher moves on to someone else. This has taken her by surprise.
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