Conversation Compass DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET A Teacher’s Guide to High-Quality Language Learning in Young Children Litera Socia l cy Math Scien ce Stephanie M. Curenton, PhD COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Conversation Compass A Teacher’s Guide to High-Quality Language Learning in Young Children Stephanie M. Curenton, PhD COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Published by Redleaf Press 10 Yorkton Court St. Paul, MN 55117 © 2016 by Stephanie M. Curenton All rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted on a specific page, no portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy- ing, recording, or capturing on any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writ- ing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a critical article or review to be printed in a magazine or newspaper, or electronically transmitted on radio, television, or the Internet. First edition 2016 Cover illustrations by ThinkStock/MAKHNACH_M Interior design by Mayfly Design Typeset in the Arno Pro and Adoquin Typefaces Printed in the United States of America 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Curenton, Stephanie M.   Conversation compass : a teacher’s guide to high-quality language learning in young children / Stephanie M. Curenton, PhD. — First edition.        pages cm   Includes bibliographical references.   ISBN 978-1-60554-384-0 (alk. paper) 1.  Language arts (Elementary) 2.  Conversation—Study and teaching (Elementary)  I. Title.   LB1576.C859 2016   372.6—dc23                                                             2015013739 Printed on acid-free paper COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET To the millions of early childhood educators who dedicate their lives to fostering the healthy growth and development of our nation’s youngest children, and especially to my own Head Start teachers, who saw the potential in a child like me . . . COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET CONTENTS Foreword by Dina C. Castro, PhD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi Why I Wrote This Book: A Letter to Teachers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiii Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 CHAPTER 1 What Does It Mean to Be a Good Conversation Partner? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 CHAPTER 2 Encouraging Instructional Peer Conversations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 CHAPTER 3 Planning Instructional Peer Conversations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 CHAPTER 4 Monitoring the Progress of Instructional Peer Conversations . . . . . . . . . 67 APPENDIX Reproducible Tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET FOREWORD Pedagogy must be oriented not to the yesterday, but to the tomorrow of the child’s development. Only then can it call to life in the process of education those processes of development which now lie in the zone of proximal development. Therefore, teach- ing must lead development forward not lag behind. We must teach to the potential. L. S. Vygotsky T eaching to ensure that all children develop their full potential is the mis- sion of all of us in the education field. We chose this profession because we believe in the transformational power of education, especially for children who face challenges due to poverty and other social circumstances. How can we make that happen? What do teachers need to do to fulfill this mission when classrooms are getting more diverse than ever before in the history of the United States and the school readiness gap widens as the population become more diverse? We need beliefs about development and learning that promote success, attitudes that are not deficit-oriented, and knowledge of instructional practices that respect chil- dren’s cultural ways of knowing (Moll and González 1994). The Conversation Compass has been designed to provide early childhood teachers with a tool that will help you in your journey to become culturally responsive teachers for all chil- dren, including those growing up in families from diverse cultures and languages. Teachers using the Conversation Compass strategies will be able to promote con- versations that are meaningful by building on children’s experiences and acknowl- edging their diverse speech and communication styles. The crucial role of language in early development, and its association with school readiness, has been well documented (National Research Council 2000). Using more and richer language in the early childhood classroom encourages chil- dren’s developmental progress and learning. The Conversation Compass discusses ix COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET x   FOREWORD theoretical approaches and concepts and provides practical recommendations and activities. It provides the rationale and the strategies for increasing the frequency and quality of instructional conversations in the classroom. This program is built on the notion that languages are learned based on need, purpose, and function, and that conversations are the mechanism for language learning. An important feature of the Conversation Compass approach is the inclusion of children who speak African American English in the discussion of strategies to support linguistically diverse children. African American English is one of the most widely spoken English dialects in the United States, and a large percentage of young children enter early childhood programs speaking this dialect (Beneke and Cheatham 2015). Because of classroom emphasis on Standard English, chil- dren who speak African American English are at risk to be misdiagnosed and inappropriately referred to special education programs. Thus, it is essential that early childhood teachers acquire the knowledge and skills that will help them be effective teachers of these children. Currently, there are few teacher preparation and professional development materials focusing on preparing teachers to work with children speaking African American English. Usually, the needs of this group of children are not considered when discussing the early education needs of lin- guistically diverse children. There is no doubt that the Conversation Compass approach will be a valuable resource for early childhood teachers serving children who are African American English speakers as well as other culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse children. —Dina C. Castro, PhD, Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education, University of North Texas COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET ACKNOWLEDGMENTS F irst and foremost, I thank all of the teachers, center directors, education coordinators, home-visitors, parents, and children who participated in this project over the past several years. Without their participation, this project would not have been possible. In addition, I thank my research assistants who helped me collect and analyze data: Wilfredo Benitez, Dakota Cintron, Janet Sarpong, Jevonna Morrison, Diana Nora, Yusra Syed, and Shari Gardner. A special note of gratitude goes out to Yusra for envisioning the book cover. Third, I thank my colleagues who provided advice and suggestions through- out the development process: Debra Sullivan, Ginger Swigart, Laura Justice, Tricia Zucker, Tom Rendon, Brenda Coakley, and Elena Fultz. And I thank Quality Assist for working so diligently to create the online course that accompanies this book. Lastly, I am grateful to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation for providing the finan- cial support to develop this project, which enabled my vision to come alive. Research Notes The transcripts in this book are derived from real-life classroom conversations across many early childhood programs in several states. The transcripts have been edited for clarity and ease of reading. The names of all the teachers and children who appear in the book have been changed. xi COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET WHY I WROTE THIS BOOK : A LET TER TO TEACHERS Dear Teachers, As an African American preschooler growing up in the 1970s, I can remem- ber elders in my family whispering, “That child sure is smart!” “She’s got good sense,” and “Stephanie asks so many questions . . .” My questions and comments became even more frequent, and specific, when I enrolled in the local Head Start program. Being in Head Start awakened me intellec- tually because my teachers taught me to ask how and why. These class- room conversations opened my mind, causing me to wonder and seek information about the what, when, and where of objects and events. These conversations even gave me the confidence to guess or predict what might happen or to give my opinion. What I understand now is that my teachers and I were engaging in instructional conversations that were fostering my critical thinking and language skills. Instructional conversations are a road map for children’s learning. These conversations, indeed, provided a road map for my educational experiences not only as a child but also as an adult who has taught and studied racial and ethnic minority children who are culturally and/or linguistically diverse. I believe children only succeed when the adults who are teaching and caring for them have the knowledge, resources, and support they need. This book is a resource that will provide you with that knowledge and sup- port. I have spent the last several years developing this idea, testing it out with teachers, getting feedback from my colleagues, and evaluating it to see if it works. I offer it to you with the hopes that it will inspire you to broaden your teaching practices and enhance your conversations with children. Sincerely, Stephanie M. Curenton, PhD xiii COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET INTRODUCTION It’s wintertime and snow is falling outside the preschool classroom. The children wish they could be outside playing in the snow. A few have their faces longingly pressed against the window, but James and Shemeca sit at the table with Mr. Jose, making snowflakes. “Have either of you ever built a snowman?” Mr. Jose asks. “No,” says Shemeca. “I have, I have!” says James. “Tell me about the time you built a snowman, James. Tell me what happened.” James eagerly begins his story: “One time I was outside in my cousin’s backyard, and it was snowing, snowing, snowing. My cousin said, ‘Let’s build Frosty the Snow- man.’ So we patted and patted and made a big ball of snow and then another one and another. And then we found some sticks for his arms, and we used rocks for his eyes and nose and mouth. And then it was finished!” “Wow, that sounds like a cool snowman, James,” Mr. Jose praises. “Well, Elsa made a snowman,” says Shemeca. “She made Olaf.” “If you could make a snowman, what kind of snowman would you make, Shemeca?” A ll teachers have hopes and expectations for their students, regardless of their students’ country of origin, ethnicity, or home language (the lan- guage or dialect a child speaks at home). For example, you may hope that by the time children leave your classroom, they will be able to ask and answer questions and follow the basic social graces for conversations, like not interrupting while someone is speaking. Or maybe you hope that the conversations you have in your classroom will provide a safe space for children to share their feelings and opinions. 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET 2   INTRODUCTION Maybe you hope that by the end of the school year, you will witness growth in your students’ vocabulary and ability to share information and express ideas. In order to bring these hopes and expectations to reality, you can use instruc- tional conversation approaches to create a high-quality language-learning envi- ronment in your classroom. Using an instructional conversation approach means talking to children with specific learning objectives in mind. It also means inten- tionally planning opportunities for children to talk with their peers during small- group learning activities. The Conversation Compass is a unique instructional conversation approach that teachers can use to foster high-quality language learn- ing environments in preschool classrooms. With support from teachers, young children are capable of having mean- ingful classroom conversations that foster their social-emotional and academic development. For instance, classroom conversations provide opportunities for children to build their social-emotional reasoning skills by talking about their feelings, ideas, opinions, memories, and personal experiences. Conversations are especially important for children’s academic growth. Conversations about literacy topics provide opportunities for children to talk about and understand vocabu- lary and printed text, as well as to understand the motives, thoughts, and feelings of characters in stories. Classroom conversations also build children’s math and sciences skills by providing opportunities for young children to evaluate events, make predictions, and solve problems. What Is the Conversation Compass? The Conversation Compass is a conversation-based instructional approach designed to build children’s critical thinking, problem solving, social reasoning, and language skills. The suggestions and ideas for this approach are based on a wide body of research about language and cognitive development, early literacy, children’s storytelling, family cultural practices, and classroom dialogue. The approach is intended to foster language and school readiness skills in all children, especially ethnic minority children who are culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), and who may speak a home language that is different from the formal, academic English that is taught in school. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET INTRODUCTION   3 This easy-to-use, fillable workbook is designed to enhance the language-learning environment by providing you with tools to plan classroom conversations. Using the Conversation Compass approach, you can plan classroom conversations that focus on higher-order reasoning and that are peer-based and culturally sensitive. This workbook can be used for independent self-study, during group trainings, or in conjunction with an online course at Even after self-study, training, or the course, you can use the workbook as a reference guide and reminder of what you have learned and as a ready-made resource for conversation planning tools and activities. Reading this book will prepare you to apply this approach in your class- room. The Conversation Compass approach includes a few simple instructional approaches that build on each other to guide your classroom conversations: Conversation Feedback Loop: By practicing feedback loops, you can learn how to keep the flow of a conversation going by asking questions, listening effectively, and repeating or elaborating on what someone has said. See more about these in chapter 1. Question Trail: Understanding the Question Trail helps you choose open- ended questions that will drive children’s conceptual knowledge. The questions range in level of difficulty from who, what, when, and where questions to how and why questions. See more on this in chapter 1. Conversation Compass: The Compass itself is a visual guide that will remind you of the conceptual reasoning paths that should form the basis of your conversa- tions. It will also serve as a reminder to help you select activities and open-ended questions. More about the compass is covered in chapter 3, which discusses how to use it along with the map to plan classroom conversations. Conversation Map: The Map is a sheet that provides a place for you to write down your learning objectives and plan for the conversation. All the important elements of the Conversation Compass approach are captured on this sheet. There is space for you to jot down the conceptual reasoning path you have chosen, to jot down questions, and to assign children to peer groups for their activities. Chap- ter 3 talks about how to use the map and compass together to intentionally plan instructional conversations with children. Tracking Peer Conversations: After you have practiced the Conversation Compass approach for a while, it will be important to start tracking children’s growth and improvements in conversation skills. This progress-monitoring tool COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET 4   INTRODUCTION Bridge from Home to School: It’s Exciting to Teach CALD Students! is a guide for observing children’s peer conversa- tions during play and small-group activities. See more on this in chapter 4. The first step in bridging the home- school language connection is becoming excited about teaching ethnic minority children from diverse language and cultural backgrounds. Teaching CALD children offers you an opportunity to Why Is the Conversation Compass Needed? make an extremely important impact in There is a large body of evidence from early child- hood education (ECE) classrooms all over the opportunities to grow—both profession- United States showing that almost all teachers need ally and personally. Do you know that help with strengthening the language-learning envi- almost everyone across the world speaks ronment in their classrooms. Numerous research- at least two languages? Often the first ers, program evaluators, and program monitors step toward learning a new language have used the Classroom Assessment Scoring Sys- comes from social contact with people tem developed by Robert Pianta, Karen La­Paro, who speak another language, either and Bridget Hamre (2008) to observe classroom through schooling or business trans- quality. They have found that teachers need help actions. By learning some key words in with language modeling, providing feedback, and another language and learning how to using conversations to promote children’s con- interact with families from other cul- cept development . Results from other studies tures, you are expanding your worldview, of classroom dialogue show that many teachers’ and you are laying the building blocks for classroom talk relies too much on commands to expanding your own language develop- manage behavior (“Everyone sit down on your ment and future opportunities for work bottom and raise your hand if you want to speak”). and travel! Or teachers’ talk mostly consists of directions during classroom transitions (“Now it is time to clean up. Please put all the blocks away”). Unfortunately, language-learning environments are especially weak in class- rooms where the majority of children are living in poverty or in classrooms where children speak a home language or dialect other than the Standard American English taught in school. This is the situation for many students, who are called culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) learners. CALD learners are young children’s lives. It also provides you with COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET INTRODUCTION   5 children who are learning a home language(s) different from the language they are learning to use at school. Some teachers are confused about how to foster the com- munication skills of children who are CALD and so they are seeking conversation approaches and materials to help teach children from these diverse language and ethnic backgrounds. If that’s you, the Conversation Compass approach can be a good place to start! Our country is becoming more ethnically and linguistically diverse. Now is an especially critical time for teachers to learn about fostering strong language-learning environments for ethnic and language minority children. In fact, the upcoming generations of young children will be more ethnically diverse than any prior gen- eration. Teachers have to learn how to bridge the home-to-school connection so that all families and children feel welcomed into ECE classrooms. The good news is that research shows that teachers who get instructional les- son-planning tools and professional development can strengthen their classroom (Pence, Justice, and Wiggins 2008)! Education interventions show that when you enhance the quality of your conversations, children’s oral language and liter- acy skills improve (Cabell et al. 2011; Piasta et al. 2012). You might be reading this book because, like me, you also believe in the power that teachers have to improve the language environment of their classrooms. Together, we can embark on the journey of learning how to create better classroom conversations with your students. Let the journey begin! COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET CURRICULUM/STRATEGIES Turn everyday classroom talk into high-quality conversation Classroom conversations, both teacher-to-student and child-to-child, are key to children’s language and reasoning development. However, classroom talk relies too much on directives, close-ended questions, and unstimulating dialogue. Conversation Compass gives you the tools you need to strengthen your language-learning environment: •  The Compass: guide high-quality classroom conversations with this visual prompt •  The Question Trail: choose the open-ended questions that will drive children’s deeper thinking •  The Map: record your learning objectives and plan for the conversations •  The peer conversation tracking sheet: observe and assess children’s progress •  A family survey: expand your awareness of the skills of children from diverse backgrounds and engage families Learn to adapt your classroom conversations to meet the diverse needs of all the children in your classroom and set them up for academic success. “Dr. Curenton has provided a much-needed resource for teachers of young children. She has made being intentional about teaching and monitoring language easy with the Conversation Compass. The background, concrete activities, and vignettes she provides effortlessly blend the ‘why’ and ‘how’ for teachers in this easy-to-use guide to fostering language development in all learners.” —Shannon Ayers, PhD, Associate Research Professor, National Institute for Early Education Research Stephanie M. Curenton, PhD, serves as the associate editor of Early Childhood Research Quarterly, sharing her knowledge of literacy development and cultural competence. She is also an assistant professor at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, where she studies the social, cognitive, and language development of low-income and minority children. ISBN 978-1-60554-384-0 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL $17.95