I know that getting kids to talk to each other about their art and the artwork of others is a powerful tool for learning, however, it was something that I felt I couldn’t manage very well. In my classroom, while some students enthusiastically talked over everyone in the group, others refused to speak or even look at anyone else. Sometimes students talked endlessly about anything but their art, and other times, the class just erupted into chaos that was hard to come back from. Eventually I realized that while I had been teaching students everything they needed to know about art, I wasn’t giving them the basic strategies needed for purposeful conversation.
Through some work presented by a Kennedy Center teaching artist, Eric Johnson, I have adapted some simple ways to make conversation a cornerstone in the art classroom. There are two key steps to setting up a positive environment for communication: setting up a consistent conversation sequence and setting consistent expectations.
Setting up a consistent conversation sequence allows students to build their conversation skills gradually. Here’s what you do.
Consistent Conversation Sequence
In addition to helping students feel more comfortable having discussions with one another, putting the following five Consistent Expectations into place when facilitating conversations will help create dynamic classroom discussions.
By setting these conversation norms, over time, we were able to turn crazy conversation time into a powerful tool for developing critical thinking. My students were now reacting thoughtfully to artist choices and really thinking about the choices they made in their own work.
So tell us, how do you give students a voice in your classroom?
What struggles do you have during group discussion time?
Do you have any other advice for group discussions?