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Stenhouse Publishers
Academic Conversations: Classroom Talk that Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understandings

Academic Conversations: Classroom Talk that Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understandings

by Jeff Zwiers, Marie Crawford
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Where would we be without conversation? Throughout history, conversations have allowed us to see different perspectives, build ideas, and solve problems. Conversations, particularly those referred to in this book as academic conversations, push students to think and learn in lasting ways. Academic conversations are back-and-forth dialogues in which students focus on a topic and explore it by building, challenging, and negotiating relevant ideas.

Unfortunately, academic conversations are rare in many classrooms. Talk is often dominated by the teacher and a few students, or it does not advance beyond short responses to the teacher's questions. Even certain teaching approaches and curriculum programs neglect to train students how to maintain a focused, respectful, and thoughtful conversation.

To address these challenges, authors Jeff Zwiers and Marie Crawford have identified five core communication skills to help students hold productive academic conversations across content areas. These skills include: elaborating and clarifying, supporting ideas with evidence, building on and/or challenging ideas, paraphrasing, and synthesizing. This book shows teachers how to weave the cultivation of academic conversation skills and conversations into current teaching approaches. More specifically, it describes how to use conversations to build the following:

  • Academic vocabulary and grammar
  • Critical thinking skills such as persuasion, interpretation, consideration of multiple perspectives, evaluation, and application
  • Literacy skills such as questioning, predicting, connecting to prior knowledge, and summarizing
  • Complex and abstract essential understandings in content areas such as adaptation, human nature, bias, conservation of mass, energy, gravity, irony, democracy, greed, and more
  • An academic classroom environment brimming with respect for others' ideas, equity of voice, engagement, and mutual support

The ideas in this book stem from many hours of classroom practice, research, and video analysis across grade levels and content areas. Readers will find numerous practical activities for working on each conversation skill, crafting conversation-worthy tasks, and using conversations to teach and assess. Academic Conversations offers an in-depth approach to helping students develop into the future parents, teachers, and leaders who will collaborate to build a better world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571108845
Publisher: Stenhouse Publishers
Publication date: 09/28/2011
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 55,543
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Jeff Zwiers teaches in the Stanford Teaching Education Program and works for Stanford's Center to Support Excellence in Teaching.

He received his Ed.D. from the University of San Francisco and has taught English, Spanish, science, and history in high school, middle school, and elementary school.

Jeff says that he became a teacher to "positively influence the social linguistic, ethical, and cognitive development of students." His areas of specialty are academic language and literacy.

Jeff is also a consultant on the Guatemala Education Reform in the Classroom project to develop effective systems of bilingual education and teacher training across the country. He has published articles and books on literacy, cognition, and academic language.

Marie Crawford is an assistant principal at Central Middle School in the San Carlos School District. She has been a mentor teacher for urban teachers, a classroom teacher in urban schools, and a museum educator.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Reasons to Converse in School 7

Chapter 2 Getting Started with Academic Conversations 27

Chapter 3 Lesson Activities for Developing Core Conversation Skills 45

Chapter 4 Designing Effective Conversation Tasks 59

Chapter 5 Training Students for Advanced Conversations 73

Chapter 6 Developing Academic Grammar and Vocabulary Through Conversation 91

Chapter 7 Conversations in Language Arts 109

Chapter 8 Conversations in History 141

Chapter 9 Conversations in Science 165

Chapter 10 Academic Conversation Assessment 185

Chapter 11 Reminders 209

Appendix 211

References 217

Index 225

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