Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

by Bee Medders

“Central to developing classroom contexts where rich oral language development occurs, is the establishment of a norm that promotes listening.”  (Mason & Gallaway, IRA, Reading Today Feb/Mar 2012)

If I’m going to teach students how to have a conversation, which involves listening and speaking, the classroom rules did not suffice to support behavior management. So, I thought why not set norms like most adult discussion groups do to have a productive conversation.

When my class developed a norm for listening, we first talked about why we come to school.  Once we established that our common goal is to learn, we reviewed the five senses and I explained how the brain gets the information by looking and listening.  I find discussing with students why and going over cause and effect of certain behaviors teaches them to set goals and regulate their behaviors to achieve them. Having ownership of desired outcomes eliminates the need for material rewards and disconnected negative consequences.  When everyone agreed on the common goal, we talked about what might help us during whole group time learning.

First, we looked at behaviors that were getting in the way of listening. Then, we listed what we need to do and agreed to maintain these norms so everyone can learn. 

Here are our norms:

-       No side conversations during whole group discussions.

-       Wait for your turn to talk.  Patience!

-       No unnecessary noise.

-       Sit on you bottom.

Initially, we had a norm keeper who would help redirect students violating a norm.  We would stop and again review why we have norms. Later, as students developed their stamina to listen, the norm keeper would periodically tell the class which one he/she notices we need to work on (we did a norm check when several students needed reminding).  This laid the foundation for our academic conversations. Now, my question was what does that sound like and how will I teach my students the protocols.