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Demystifying Discussion: How to Teach and Assess Academic Conversation Skills, K–5


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How do you take the passion and chatter that K–5 students bring to the classroom and turn it into conversation skills that make them better learners? Academic conversation can help hone speaking and listening, critical thinking, and social-emotional skills, as well as deepen content knowledge. But despite its effectiveness, this kind of purposeful, student-led discussion is rarely taught or used at the elementary level. The mystery for teachers is how to support students at various stages of development and build an environment of trust that lets them cultivate these skills.

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Sharing Thinking

Exploring Others' Thinking

About the authors

Jennifer Orr is an elementary school teacher in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. She has taught for more than two decades in almost every elementary grade at schools serving highly diverse populations. She has experience with students who are learning English; in special education and advanced academic programs; and from military families.

Throughout her career, she achieved and renewed National Board Certification; wrote articles about technology in education, literacy, math, questioning, and more; and presented at state and national conferences on the same topics. Orr is a member of ASCD’s Emerging Leader class of 2013. In 2012, she won the Kay L. Bitter Award from ISTE.

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