Using Conversations as Evidence of Learning

(This happened last year and the name of my student has been changed.)

George drops by my class every morning.

“Hi Miss!” he shouts.

He tells me about his girlfriend, and asks for breath mints
because he got rushed out of the house and didn’t have time to brush his teeth. He showed me pictures of the sheep on his family farm.
A supply teacher told me that he dropped by when I was absent and left me an apple.

Several weeks back I saw him in the principal’s office and rather than understanding that his location
might reveal a discipline problem to be concerned about, he waved enthusiastically to get my attention.

If someone were to record the number of times the name “George” is said in a period, I believe that it
would exceed the names of all other students. Getting George’s attention is difficult. Getting George to
understand and to learn is difficult. Liking George isn’t difficult.

I’ve always known that technology can be the great leveller in the classroom and this definitely applies to
George. In our professional learning this year, we decided to record student voices and to see what
learning takes place that is not evident when they write. George loves speaking so using a voice
recorder and interviewing him after a reading task was easy and he was engaged the entire time.
But was he learning? And, if there was learning, could I hear it?

This classroom intervention, this intentional interruption in my teaching practice, sparked so many thoughts and questions and changes in me. I have started to pay closer attention to the types of questions that I ask students and I listen more. I sit in small groups and let them direct the conversations making connections between the skills that we are learning in class and their lives.
George pays closer attention when it connects with his own life and I’m getting a better understanding of what he understands.

Last year, our Literacy Achievement Collaboration Group allowed teachers the time to reflect on students and themselves; it provided a learning environment that had high expectations for learning, and which was rigorous and demanding, but allowed for many voices in the interests of

growth. I feel like this is what needs to happen often with George and other students just like him and I am making this my focus for this year.

I always set myself goals for improvement, and this year I want to make the changes that will allow me to use conversations as evidence of learning. And, I know that there are those students who are reluctant to speak (my youngest son was one of those students) so I will find ways to hear what they are learning. I found this interesting idea to help promote peer to peer conversations and will work this into the group discussions this year.