On Tuesdays I have regularly published a post and response to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Today I am breaking with tradition as I wrote the prompt this week and included my flash with it.
In that post I mentioned classroom sharing circles where everyone comes together to share their work, thoughts and ideas, not unlike the sharing of stories and ideas at the Carrot Ranch. In the classroom everyone in the circle is equal, with equal opportunity to see and hear, and to be seen and heard. The focus is lifted from the teacher and shared equally among class members, creating a democracy.
In this post I describe some of the sharing circles I used in my classroom and show how these processes are not all that dissimilar from our own blogging circles.
D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) is a daily quiet reading session lasting about 15 minutes. In these sessions everyone, including the teacher, chooses a book and finds a comfortable space for reading. Some children sit at desks, some on cushions in the reading corner, others prop themselves up against the wall, and others lie on the floor.
The one rule is:
- Everybody reads without interruption.
- Nobody talks
- Everybody chooses enough reading material for the session
- No outside interruptions are permitted (unless it’s an emergency)
It is essential for the teacher to engage in personal reading, along with the children, to show that reading is valued and to provide a model of “expert reader” behaviour. Inviting other school personnel to join the session is also valuable. It is particularly important for children, who may not see adults engaged in regular sustained recreational reading at home, to see adults enjoying reading.
I always concluded my D.E.A.R. sessions with a Reader’s circle. Children would bring their books to the circle and share what they had read. While there wasn’t time for every child to share every day, I ensured each child had an opportunity of doing so at least once a week. Children would:
- Tell the book’s title and author
- What it was about
- What they liked about it, and
- Read a small section to the class
I loved the way children would look to each other’s book responses to guide their own selection, often asking others to help them find a book that had previously been talked about. We do the same in sharing and reading book reviews on our blogs.
If a love of reading is contagious, Reader’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.
A love of writing can be equally contagious. One of the things children enjoyed most about writing, other than the actual writing, was sharing it with others. Children would have opportunities to discuss and read their writing to each other in pairs and small groups as well as in the Writer’s circle.
Sometimes we would have a pre-writing circle to share ideas and inspiration. It was rare that anyone would leave the circle without an idea. Surprisingly perhaps, it was even rarer that two would write about the same thing. Bouncing ideas off each other seemed to encourage a diversity, rather than similarity, of ideas. I guess the responses to Charli’s flash fiction prompt demonstrate the same principle.
Post-writing circles provided opportunities to discuss what had been written and to read sections to others. Writers might share what they liked about their writing, or what they were having trouble with. Others might ask questions for clarification, to understand character motivations, or to find out what will happen next. Sometimes, with the writer’s permission, I would use a piece of writing to discuss an aspect of the writing process that would have application for many. If any children were reluctant to read their own writing, I would be more than happy to read it with them.
If a love of writing is contagious, Writer’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.
Discussion circles could occur at any time, in any subject on any topic where a sharing of ideas was required. I had a lovely smiley face ball that children would sometimes pass around, or across the circle, to each other, to indicate whose turn it was to talk. This ensured that everyone had an opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts, as well as to hear the ideas and thoughts of others. Topics could be as diverse as:
- “I feel happy when …”
- “When I lose a tooth …”
- “On the holidays, I …”
- “I think children should be able to … because …”
Each of these sharing circles gives children a voice, demonstrating that they, their thoughts, their ideas and their opinions are accepted and valued. Each encourages children to listen attentively and respectfully to others by providing a supportive environment in which they can test out ideas, then reflect and reassess in response to the reactions of others.
These discussions are not unlike those we engage in on our blogs; sharing books and articles read, and videos watched, along with our ideas and opinions and, most of all, our writing.
Thank you for the opportunity of sharing mine. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.