Home Content AreasEnglish Language Arts Three Tips to Blogging Author Chats, Part 1

Three Tips to Blogging Author Chats, Part 1

by Miguel Guhlin
man at a typewriter

Looking for an easy way to connect with authors online? While you can connect for free via Skype in the Classroom, you may also wish to engage an author at large via author chats. The author can then participate with your class in a book study. Or, if you are dealing with a long-dead author, find someone to impersonate that author and conduct regular interactions with your class. In this two-part blog series, you’ll find several tips on how to proceed.

TIP #1 – Take advantage of the Socratic Seminar or Fishbowl Approach

Socratic Seminar (a.k.a. “fishbowl“) may be an approach you are familiar with. If not, here is a quick overview of key elements:

  • Students are invited to read a text.
  • An “inner circle” is formed of students, as well as an “outer circle.”
  • The inner circle actively discusses the assigned text, perhaps stating a question about the reading.
  • The outer circle watches their corresponding inner circle participant, employing an observation form.

Organizing Socratic Seminar Circles

In Socratic Seminar, you are going to divide your class into two groups. Here are the first two steps of the Socratic Seminar process (we will cover the final two further down in the blog entry).

1) The first group forms the inner circle. The second group forms the outer circle.

2) The inner circle members directions are pretty straightforward. Students are handed a piece of paper and asked to jot down some notes and questions they might have regarding the article/story read for class. They will share one of the questions or statements they have written with the whole group.

Outer circle members are also given another instruction: watch a specific partner and complete the following tally sheet  for them.

The purpose of this is to keep them engaged and listening. I have found this to be particularly true since it enables the student to focus on one person, even as he listens to the discussion. For example, students are watching out for the following to occur:

  • Speaks in the discussion
  • Looks at person who is speaking
  • Refers to the text
  • Asks a question
  • Responds to another speaker
  • Interrupts another speaker
  • Engages in side conversations

Apparently, these individual pages–whether for inner/outer circle–can also be collected for grading purposes.

Getting Ready for Socratic Seminar

Prior to Socratic Seminar, you can prepare student groups to review the text. For example, you can assign different activities to each small group. Some of these activities included the following with these directions:

  • Venn Diagram: Compare/contrast two characters from the text.
  • Cluster Activity: Select one representative word from the text and put it in the center of the page. Students brainstorm what they have learned in the article/story in regards to the word.
  • T-Graph: Divide the paper into two parts with a large “T.” On the right side of the paper, the teacher presents a pre-selected list of five or six quotes directly from the story. Label this side as “Quotes.” On the the left-hand side of the T, students write down their collaboratively-decided meaning of the quote and its importance to the story. This side is labelled “Interpretation.”
  • PMI Chart: Students collaboratively list ideas/issues/values from the story that they found to be a “Plus” to the story, those that they found to be a “Minus” in the story, and those that were simply “Interesting” from the text.
  • Vocabulary Collection: Students search for new vocabulary or words to display on a five-pointed star that has been labelled for them. The labels may include the “5 Ws” or five separate categories such as People, Things, Feelings, Places, and Interesting Words.

Starting the Seminar

After everyone in both circles knows their job, you are ready to begin. Let’s continue stepping through the Socratic Seminar process.

3) Each inner circle member shares their question/statement. The facilitator then asks one of the individuals to elaborate on what they said. Again, the choice is up to the facilitator as to who to start with. And then, the discussion begins.

4) After a specified time, the facilitator ends the discussion. She then invites the outer circle to provide feedback to the particular inner circle member they were partnered with. The facilitator is sure to cut short any feedback that does not specifically relate to the Observation Form.

To Be Continued

In part 2 of this two part blog entry, we will explore tips two and three to blogging author chats.


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