Written conversation

After reading pairs of students write short notes back and forth to each other about the experience.

Why use it?
With written conversation you can have a discussion where everyone is actively talking at once, though silently, in writing.

How does it work?
1. After the reading is completed, have students identify patterns for a written conversation. If necessary the teacher pairs up students.
2. Explain the activity first, so kids know that they will be writing simultaneously notes to one another about the reading selection, swapping them every two or three minutes at the teacher's command, for a total of 3 exchanges and keeping quiet along the way. They are to write for the whole time alloted for each note, putting down words, phrases, questions, connections, ideas, wonderings. Spelling and grammar do not count.
3. The teacher can leave the topic open or give an appropriate open-ended prompt.
4. Both students in each pair starts writing a note. Meanwhile the teacher watches the time, and after 2 or 3 minutes ask students to exchange notes. The teacher reminds: "Read what your partner said, and then take two minutes to answer, just as if you were talking out loud. You can write responses, feelings, stories, make connections of your own, or ask your partner questions-anything you would do in a face-to-face conversation."
5. After the planned two or three note exchange is complete you say: "O.K., now you can talk out loud with your partner for a couple of minutes.
6. Next, a short whole class discussion can be much more engaged and productive, because everyone will have fresh ideas about the topic. Ask a few pairs to share one highlight or thread of their written conversations as a way of starting the discussion.

Daniels, Harvey, and Steven Zemelman. Subjects Matter: Every Teacher's Guide to Content-area Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2004. Print.

Example: After the students read a selections they should have a written conversation amongst a small group. Later they should share the ideas with the whole class.

Elisabete Teixeira