Paper Chat: A Discovery Ed SOS

I’m sure teachers have been using this for years, but I find this tool so, so awesome for collaboration. (Never thought you’d see “so, so awesome” from an English teacher, did ya?)

I’m lucky enough to get training every month in Discover Education, which I think has gotten a lot better of the past few years in providing educators which classroom specific and useful tools and strategies.  One of my favorite tools on their website for educators is the SOS – Spotlight on Strategies.  For ELA, these strategies are organized by standards and come with a pretty PDF that you can print out and keep handy in a planning binder for when you’re just not sure what you want your students to do with a source.

Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 2.00.53 PMOne of my favorite strategies (SHOUT OUT TIME) is the Paper Chat Strategy.  I use this all the time in my classroom and adapt it to work for whatever they’re doing.  With Paperchat, you place butcher paper at tables all around the room and the students have to collaborate in order to do something on each piece of butch paper.  Once students have written on each sheet of butcher paper, they go back and comment on someone else’s response on each sheet. They can comment on as many as they like (I usually require 2-3 on each sheet for my high schoolers) and then they can continue the “silent paper discussion” for as long as needed.

A Student Group's Taxonomy
A Student Group’s Taxonomy

I’ve used this in multiple ways.  The first time I ever used it was with my tenth graders when they studied creativity and originality.  In this unit I did some of the following things, I had them create their own Bloom’s Taxonomy in this unit after analyzing their own multiple intelligences quizzes, and studying the old Bloom’s and some quotes on creativity, we also had a debate “Everything is Original” and “Nothing is Original.”  One of the videos that enhances their discussion was Sir Ken Robinson’s, Do Schools Kill Creativity? Shout out to a GREAT English Teacher, Nat, for creating AWESOME lesson plans with me.

“Ladder of Logic” A Student Group’s Bloom’s.

While my students watched the Ted Talk, they took notes in a graphic organizer.  (Made by Nat). The graphic organizer was meant to focus on informational text standards, RL.1, and RL.2 (citing textual evidence through inferencing and deliberate quotes and central idea analysis).  After they were through watching the Ted Talk, I had a Paper Chat set up around the room with seven different questions, one on each paper.

  1. Why is education important to society?
  2. At what age did you become “frightened of being worn?” How and why?
  3. Should subjects in school be ranked by importance?
  4. Robinson says, “we have to reshape the fundamental principles on which we’re educating children.”  Bullet list changed (thoughtful changes) you would make to education.
  5. Define creativity and explain your definition and the reasons behind it.
  6. What type of intelligence are you strongest in, explain how it’s helped and hurt you in school.
  7. Respond to the Jonas Salk quote, “If all insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on Earth would end.  If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.”

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I think it brought us to a really strong discussion of where creativity fits in school and why school today doesn’t foster creativity maybe as much as we think it does.

A student group's Taxonomy
A student group’s Taxonomy

I also used Paper Chat with my juniors in American Literature recently.  After the Paris attacks, and the San Bernadino shooting, I thought that we needed to have a discussion on where America stands currently.  We were in the middle of an American War Unit and this was pertinent to the discussion, I thought.  Before the Paper Chat my students completed a text analysis sheet for the following two texts, President Obama’s “Address to the Nation” on December 7th, and the ISIS letter claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks.  Since this is closer to the end of our semester, my students were able to review a lot of the standards for reading informational text in their text analysis sheet.  After they completed the text analysis sheet, they completed a paper chat for a discussion comparing the two documents.  Rather than focusing on the clear differences in the documents, I wanted my students to have a discussion on how both sides are formatting, voicing, and structuring their arguments within the documents.  While one text is a speech, and one is a letter, I also wanted them to analyze the difference in the two.  Their Paper Chat questions were as follows:

  1. How are the messages similar? How are the messages different?
  2. How is the tone similar and different in each, and why?
  3. What is the most important word/phrase in each and why? How do the words or phrases compare?
  4. What patterns exist in each text (structurally)?
  5. Which text is more aware of its audience, and why?
  6. What does it say about each text that one was spoken and one was sent online?
  7. What are your final thoughts on each speech? Explain in detail.

After this Paper Chat discussion they were able to collect their thoughts along through a quick write (AXES paragraph) from two choices:

  1. How do both of these texts address both the needs of the author and the needs of their audience? Explain with evidence from each.
  2. What are the STYLE (word choice, structure of argument, voice, details, figurative language, repetition) differences between the letter sent by ISIS and the speech by President Obama? Explain using evidence from both.

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I found the Paper Chat SOS worked really well in this discussion.  Sometimes in discussion, students are afraid to say thinks aloud that they would want to for fear of rejection, confrontation, or being wrong.  With Paper Chat, I find that students can either anonymously say exactly how they’re feeling, or they can put their name next to something they believe without the fear of being yelled out.  While they might face argument on the paper for their stance, I think it comes off less heated.  This was a pretty argumentative paper chat because students felt like it was their duty as Americans to defend Obama even when they were discussing the style of the speeches rather than the actual content.  I found it really interesting when we discussed the biases that we held as Americans, (and humans), and what questions they have about everything going on in their current world.

A mug, my dear friend Ashley made me for Christmas of my classroom motto.
A mug, my dear friend Ashley made me for Christmas of my classroom motto.

I really like the Paper Chat SOS for several reasons.  Here is a running list:

  1. It is less confrontational than a typical argument (if you choose to ask argumentative questions).
  2. It leads to out loud discussion, from the page to the mouth.
  3. It gives students who need more think time to collect their thoughts in discussion or think*pair*share, that time they need to really understand what they’re thinking and format it in a way that they’re proud of.
  4. My students have clear expectations (particularly when I tell them how much they must write and how I want them to respond to each other).
  5. After students have completed this SOS a few times, they’re able to not have as many boundaries on their discussion and they really get into talking it out on the paper.
  6. Everyone is collaborating with everyone.
  7. This can be done just as easily in a Google Doc or an online platform for that added technology piece of our evaluation and for students to really be prepared in a 21st century way.
  8. It feels a bit like texting one of my students said.  Anytime I can connect their everyday life to their learning is a good day.
  9. It leads to discussion passed the activity.
  10. Every student is involved with every question.  There are never outliers when I do this in my classroom.
  11. Every student feels like they are being heard.
  12. Students get to know one another better through their views and create relationships.

I think I’m going to use this as one of my first day of the semester (or first week) activities for student just to do a “get to know you.”  I might ask simple questions or make it a bit harder and ask questions from the Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire to get them thinking and responding to one another.  This would also be a good way for me to get to know them as students.  I don’t know if I would have them do this anonymously as I don’t really know their handwriting yet at this new point.



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