Friday, June 24, 2016

Socratic Seminar | Paired Text Drawing Conclusions Making Inferences


Perceptive Inferential Reading and listening
Drawing Conclusions Making Inferences Paired Text: The deep end of the reading pool, reading between the lines, inferring, drawing conclusions and interpreting “seeing” the big picture! The most complex and neglected reading and listening skill developed in school today!

Teaching students perceptive and inferential reading strategies using paired texts, heighten awareness of inference signal words and growing drawing conclusions skill. This seminar gets students quickly interested in reading complex paired text and using their skills to find the themes and main ideas. Solving reading mysteries “finding the main idea” and analyzing multifaceted allegorical text in a structured logical method should be fun and stress free. The seminar builds strategic thinking, logical ways of finding new information and connecting it with their background knowledge. Up to 50% of all high stakes reading assessment are inference based.  Students use what they learned to reshape, change, and add to their prior knowledge,  the process of interpreting new information helps students develop into more informed readers of complex text. The seminar adapts easily too many academic domains, and the design helps to ensure that all individuals read, think, and add to the discussion. The seminar is particularly useful in presenting a new complex topics because it fosters curiosity and develops immediate formative feedback about learning. Help students answer the dreaded, What is the main idea….., use text evidence to supports your answer?

Perceptive Inferential Reading Question Stems
Who is involved and what events are connected to them?
What is paragraph/passage…mostly/mainly about?
What is this selection mainly about?
What is the primary purpose of paragraph …?

1. Select paired text that are fun, fascinating, or funny subject: an allegorical short poem, political cartoon, letter to the editor, satirical article, newspaper article, etc.
Ais for Assessment
Current policy has given birth to the largest measurement frenzy since the three month period following the invention of the meter stick.

Definition: Assessment (n), a method for demonstrating the success of a self fulfilling prophecy.

Parents may coach offspring to increase chances of passing assessments. Projectile Vomiting Target Practice (PVTP) for instance (Check with your local PTA for availability of classes). 'Child must be able take out half of the Disney characters in a cot mobile on one stomach load. Aim for power over distance.
Bis for Blame: Blame the teachers, Blame the schools, Batteries of tests and Batteries of rules
The cause for falling standards can't be social inequality...

Why? Because if it were, wed need to address the disproportionate number of public school toffs in moleskin trousers who pass straight from boarding school to Eton College and thence to Oxford University in Daddy's Bentley (Windows tinted on the inside to avoid undergraduates catching a glimpse of any food banks or charity shops where the poor hang out instead of looking for work). Then on to a soft job with one of daddys chums in parliament making photo copies for £90k a year in preparation for a namby-pamby post in the Civil Service at £120,000 per annum.

…so, if social inequality isnt to blame, it must be the fault of teachers and schools. I mean who else is involved? QED.

Cis for Curriculum
Definition: (n), a completely arbitrary selection of subjects for teaching, considered by those who device them to be the unvarnished truth. Usually imposed with no consultation and carved on tablets of stone.
A curriculum can be constructed by starting from a Cloud Cuckoo Land vision of your favorite utopian neoliberal society, and working back from there to the skills needed to build such a monstrosity. Finally, class these skills as absolutely necessary, silence dissenting voices and push on with teaching them. Art, drama, conversational skills or anything aesthetic don't really have a place in this model but with many of our graduates destined for low wage drudgery in the zero hours economy, has anything really been lost?

2. Place students into cooperative groups of 2-4 and distribute the first paired article and seminar materials: Each group gets, a set dry erase boards and markers, colored pencils, a piece of butcher paper, and loose leaf paper for Cornell or Lotus notes.

3. All students read independently or with a buddy and annotate the article, students rank the relevant statements from 1-4, 1 being the most important, students text code the article with “N” for new information, “Q” for unknown information. Students add their new knowledge to their Cornell or Lotus notes using colored pencils. After everyone has read and annotated their text, each student shares new  “N” information with his/her group.

4. Students have discussions about what they think the poem/article/cartoon is mainly about and record new or changed ideas they learned from the group discussions on their individual notes.

5. Teacher call the whole class back for a micro lecture, using Socratic questions to trigger student’s background knowledge. Students are encouraged to share with the whole class their prior knowledge, inferences, drawn conclusions or misconceptions. Students quietly write their new knowledge and deeper understanding about the topic in their Cornell or Lotus notes.

6. Students share their new knowledge about the topic with their cooperative groups. Students create a shared list of their collective prior knowledge/understanding of the topic on a piece of butcher paper using the colored pencils.

7. Hand out the seconded paired text, all students read the new article independently or with a buddy. Students annotate, rank and text-code the new article looking for new information and clues to the main ideas shared in both articles. After everyone has read and annotated their text, each student shares new  “N” information with his/her group.

8. Students repeat steps 4-5-6 and make a final conclusion.

9. Debrief Questions: Inference
What generalizations can be made from the paired article?
What are these two articles mainly about?
What is the importance of these two articles?
What is the primary purpose of these two articles?

What themes are shared in both articles?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Socratic Seminar | Context Clues Word Analysis


Context clues: Contextual clues used when deducing word meanings; logical clues that provide students with surrounding words that gives clues to the meaning of the unknown word or comprehension based on the complete passage (Holistic) in which a word is found.

Word Analysis also refers to knowledge of the meanings and spellings of prefixes, root words, and suffixes. Word Analysis instruction can be very effective in helping beginning-advanced readers learn to read with understanding and deduce the meaning of unknown words.

Students use context clues to investigate and deduce the meaning of
unknown words. Students share word analysis strategies and predictions about the meaning of words with peers in a gallery setting. The context clues word analysis seminar involves small-group collaboration, while making individuals responsible for the learning of word investigation strategies.

What is the meaning of …in this passage/sentence?
What are the context clues around the word?
What other words can help you deduce its meaning?
Does the mystery word have a negative or positive connotation?
Can you locate a simile/metaphor/idiom to help you predict the meaning?
Does the author compare or contrast ideas around the unknown word?
Does the author use synonyms or antonyms as clues?
What strategies can you use to help you find the meaning of the word?
What is the main idea of the phrase?

1. Divide students into cooperative group, groups vary depending on the number of mystery words “internment“ and their associated passages. Teachers can explicitly model all the tasks, steps and products “Anchor Charts” or the better choice is use the seminar as a problem based learning activity

The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II was the forced relocation and incarceration in camps in the interior of the country of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who had lived on the Pacific coast. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens.

2. Assign each cooperative group a mystery words and the associated passages. I use EOG End-of-Grade released reading test that are grade level or above. I select a word-analysis test question that requires students to use contextual clues. Leave out the multiple choice answers until the end of the seminar if you use a released test.

3. Provide each cooperative group with additional materials they want or need to further improve their word study research. A Thesaurus, Root Words & Base Words Anchor Charts, and Latin and Greek Affixes Prefixes Suffixes Anchor Charts! No Dictionaries!

4. Allow time for teams to read, analyze and talk about the context clues. Students can share predictions, background knowledge about the words meaning that may be new to other students. Using background knowledge, anchor charts, and the thesaurus will help students build brand new knowledge. Have each group create a new anchor chart with key context clues, the words predicted meaning and an artistic representation of the meaning of the word. Extensions: Students can create a fictitious etymology and denotation.

History (from Greek hismanicus and storiticus “Man Story”)   an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about man events. The term includes cosmic, geologic, and organic history, but is often generically implied to mean man history. Scholars who wrote about history in the past were called manstorians or liars. Fictitious Etymology

5. Each student must participate in the word analysis process, each student needs to construct their own meaning of the word, be it right or wrong. The seminar is not about comprehending the meaning of new words but the process of word analysis. The artistic representation of the meaning of the word and the student deduced denotations are artifacts that demonstrate thinking. Students need to find fun ways effectively present information and learning from wrong examples is at times more powerful than presenting the correct information. Allow time for the teams to help one another finish and complete their anchor charts with the key context clues, the words predicted meaning and an artistic representation of the meaning of the word.

6. Display the students anchor charts around the room or in the hallways. Leave the anchor charts up for the day before you check the words true meaning.

7. Students are given time to do a gallery-walk, they go around the room and read other teams mystery words, paired text and examine the student created anchor charts.

Extensions: A team member that helped create the anchor can present the important information during the gallery-walk.

8. The cooperative groups are assigned a different team’s anchor chart to investigate; they will scrutinize the fidelity of the ideas presented. The team’s new job is to see if the meaning of the word correct!

Extensions: Gives student a entry/admit ticked with a question, 4th grade Exemplars: What does internment mean?  

9. After all the groups have revisited each anchor charts, debrief students.
Debrief questions:

A. Did you deduce the correct meaning of the word?
B. What was your favorite part of this seminar?
C. What role did collaboration play in your understanding?
D. Why was this activity challenging and fun?
E. What was your biggest “a-ha” and  “oh-no” during the seminar?

F. How was your learning enhanced by this seminar? 

Socratic Seminar | Inferences, Conclusions, and Predictions


How are Inferences, Conclusions, and Predictions Related? Inference is the process of deducing logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true.

A Sherlock Holmes Socratic Seminar Reading Mystery! 

Students think about and analyze small parts of a text before
they read the complete text. The mystery seminar encourages involvement and curiosity that activates attentive listening. Students are also active and moving around the class looking at different sentences and phrases. Students anticipate, predict, and infer what they think they will find in the complete text. Students are encouraged to share what they think is happening in the “mystery text” unread text. Because students will be making inferences, see underlying relationships that should be compared and contrasted through dialogue. Students look for chronological order, logical sequencing, and they must draw on prior knowledge to solve the mystery texts meanin

1. Select key phrases, important dialogue, relevant statements, detailed sentences or keywords directly from a short or lengthier text. Type or copy all the clues onto strips of paper onto index cards. I use public domain literature to make the process faster.  

2. You can shorten a sentence using ellipsis, but don’t change the original text.

3. Students are organized into groups of 2-4 students. I will pair students with a buddy reader to help a partner when needed. Students can help a partner read or get teacher help, students read silently and individually at first, than work in cooperative groups for discussions later.   

4. Place the mystery text cards around the room on charts or on tables or desks.

5. Students read the phrase/text independently and they make a prediction about what the story, fairy tale, parable, pourquoi tales, legends, myth and any other text could be about. Students, write a quick statement on their Lotus notes prediction chart. During the mystery phase students are quit unless they are paired with a reading buddy. “I/We think this is about…, because….”, “I/We infer this is about…, because….”“I/We predict this is about…, because….”

6. Students rotate around the room, reading the mystery cards and writing a quick statement on their Lotus notes prediction graphic.  You can set up the seminar with partners and have them read to each other and then start discussing possible predictions before the next rotation. “I predict the text is about a …. Fairy tale, proverb, parable, pourquoi tales, legends, myth!”

7. After students have read all the mystery cards and completed the first part of their Lotus notes prediction charts, have students return to their cooperative groups. The student present their prediction based on all their notes. Students are encouraged to modify and change their predictions when they hear persuasive arguments and statements. Student’s record modified predictions and persuasive statements from other students in their notes. “My prediction changed from…., Because” “My prediction was supported by….”

8. Students read individually the text in its entirety or as a group whenever needed, they annotate the text highlighting information that challenges, confirms or makes modifications to their predictions. When the students complete their group discussions they listen to the teacher read the entire text. ”, My predictions ….differ from the text, because….?

9. The teacher rereads the entire text selection and stresses the inferential thinking process, discuses further questions, revised predictions, implicit and explicit clues.
Extensions: List lingering questions, make anchor charts, inferential strategies ideas, imagination bubbles, and be creative.

10. Students go back to their Lotus notes prediction charts and look for what they predicted “right or wrong” plus the statements from other students that persuaded them to change their predictions.  The students record the why …  on the second part of their notes,  about “aah hass” revised predictions and further questions.

11. Debrief: Think-out your thoughts, opinions, perceptions, what did the groups learn  while participating in this seminar,  How did their personal predictions differ their partners? How did their personal predictions differ from the text? Was it fun engage in reading in this way? What would make this seminar more fun or engaging? How are Inferences, Conclusions, and Predictions Related? 

Socratic Writing Seminar | Student Initiated Questions and Formative Feedback


Teaching student exemplary writing skills is easier when you incorporate Socratic Writing Seminars! Peer lead formative guidance and specific praise from peers, helps students develop and strengthen writing by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approaches.

This writing seminar is used to teach peer lead questioning
protocols and formative feedback. The seminars key focus is developing student lead questing when revising and editing a final draft. Students give and receive formative feedback using a non judgmental critiques model. It should be used for the final draft, specifically what will be polished into the finished published product. This process will help students see what is working and what is not working. The students make inquiries from peers; the peers provide suggestions and ideas for revisions. Students have to step out of their comfort zone and actively seek help.  Ultimately causing a change in student’s attitudes about the writing process: Brainstorming, Prewriting, Drafting, Revising, Editing and Publishing! The improvement in the writing and revising process is less painless when the teacher is not the red pen gate keeper. It’s the individual students not the teacher offering feedback that is so positive to the author/creator. Explicit modeling is essential for this seminar to successfully be properly used. Teacher lead editing which focuses on students writing can make some students shut down and not want to write.

1. Provide students with a writers-checklist or a student friendly six traits of writing rubric. The descriptors and rubrics are clear guidelines of the objectives and criteria for the piece of writing that will be critiqued.

2. As a class, create a list of revision questions based on the checklist or rubrics, have students refer to revision questions “anchor chart” that are based on the criteria for the good writing.

3. Model the procedure for asking questions with small groups or with the whole class.  Create cooperative groups that will read and give feedback and suggestions. Advanced students can be placed on a feedback team.

4. Students work in groups of 2-5.

5. The students reads aloud their final draft to the group, this will immediately show if they are ready for final check lists and revision ideas. The student may ask peers to focus feedback on a specific modification that is particular to something they’re actually struggling with. No feedback is offered without the student asking the question first. Students must take responsibility for seeking help and advice by asking questions.

6. Student give formative feedback and revision ideas can be written on Post-it notes or can be provided from the checklist or criteria for great writing. Students focus on the positive first and what was done well. Students look for specific attributes of great writing, what is praiseworthy or working well and openly praise the student’s specific writing qualities. Praise and feedback always has to be very specific.

7. The teacher models how to give specific helpful feedback, Saying, “You did a good job”, “You need to rewrite it”, this is not formative feedback or helpful for revising the final draft.  

Formative Feedback for Six Traits of Writing "Ideas"
“The writing has great/uneven ideas” The writing makes sense and the purpose is clear”
“This topic is clear/unclear and well (needs more to be) covered” You included interesting fun details” “your ideas are engaging and I want to keep reading” “This sentence is unclear, you might add some important details”

8. Students take turns presenting and asking questions. Again after being ask questions peers provide helpful specific suggestions and praise.

Formative Feedback for Six Traits of Writing "Organization"
“The writing is easy to follow, and it starts out with a powerful opener!”, The writing flows and everything ties together” I like the flows of idea and clear organization” , “The witting connects all the fun details to the main idea and theme”, “Your ideas are broken down into well organized logical paragraphs” “The writing is ordered and has great openers and transitions”

9. Student Debrief: Was the feedback positive and related to the revision questions? Did all students participate in giving and receiving formative feedback? Did the seminar help you think about revising and editing in a positive way? Was the formative feedback helpful? 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Socratic Seminar | "Opinion" Take a Stand

Purpose Participants articulate opinions and thinking on their viewpoints about controversial questions.

An opinion is a judgment, viewpoint, or personal statement that is not irrefutable. It may deal with subjective (biased) concepts in which there are no conclusive facts or proof. What distinguishes fact from opinion is that facts are more likely to be verifiable, i.e. can be agreed to by the consensus (agreement) of experts.

1. Post  “I Strongly Agree.” and “I Strongly Disagree.” In two parts of the room.  

2. Tell students they'll be using the Take a Stand protocol, which allows them to share and explain their opinions. They go to a spot on an imaginary line that best reflects their beliefs after they hear a statement. Corporal Punishment Is a Great Classroom Management Technique!

3. Explain the steps of the opinion protocol:

A. The teacher makes a statement and students go to the “I Agree or Disagree Line”, based on whether they agree or disagree with that statement, to a accepted point on the imaginary line that goes across the room. Point out that one side is labeled “Strongly Disagree” and also the other side labeled “Strongly Agree,” and also this means that the center of the line is undecided.

B. After the teacher makes a statement, they will pause for students  to then think and get all participants to go on to the point on the imaginary line that best reflects their opinions. “I believe learning cursive is a waste of time”

C. The teacher selects an equity stick and ask individuals to share and justify their opinions, make sure to actively listen to students on different parts of the line. The teachers can fold the line so the “strongest agree” and “strongest disagree” have a Socratic discussion.

D. If a participant actively listens to an opinion and the student has an anagnorisis, and they change their mind, they can go quietly to the part of line that represents their opining.

4. Model and review how the protocol works. Make a new statement (Homework should be abolished for primary and intermediate students) model for students how to move and change a position if the change their opinions. The modeling helps individuals internalize how to use the line that is invisible.

Socratic Seminar | Compare and Contrast Reading Questions


Purpose This protocol was created to help individuals understand the meaning of a text at a deeper level, particularly to see how meaning can be constructed and supported by the essential ideas of others. After the students share his / her reasoning, interests, similarities and differences in interpretations, questions will arise as other participants share their thinking without judgment or debate. The presenters share and listen to others insights that should help change or deepen his or her perspective, increasing knowledge.  Students do not need to stick with their unique ideas and they can adapt their ideas without criticism. This protocol is especially helpful when people battle to understand what they are reading. Advanced level Released Reading Comprehension Test with Paired Text Work Well! Compare and Contrast Focus Questions and Prompts!

Compare and Contrast Question Stems and Prompts:
  1. What connections can you find…. about the, themes, characters?
  2. In what ways do the characters think alike/differently in the paired text?
  3. How does this…. contrasting idea affect the outcome?
  4. In what way do different settings in the paired stories affect the outcome?
  5. Which similar details are used by the authors to show us how the characters act with towards each other?
  6. What attitude did the characters display?
  7. Was the…… charters affect important to the tone of the story? 
  8. What do… and….see the plots exposition, the characters think alike/differently in the paired text?
  9. How does the dialogue help you understand the affect of the characters and their potential actions?


1. Have each cooperative group select a time keeper and “Boss” facilitator.

2. All students may read the entire text “TEST” or cooperative groups may read various parts of the texts on a common subject for a jigsaw learning activity. Text selection is a critical step and needs to have advanced or above grade level text complicity.

3. Participants read silently or with a reading buddy and text-code, records relevant ideas using Lotus or Cornell notes,  or use a teacher made form or document that records desired learning targets.

4. Students mark, rank and annotate passages for discussion clearly, so they can quickly locate the passage later during discussions. To promote critical and higher order thinking, design prompts and question for the discussions that ask participants to include reasons why they selected a particular passage.  Using released tests gives teachers ready made prompts and reading comprehension questions. Students need to use text evidence that supports their particular view pints, opinions and connections.

5. Students share 2-3 relevant passages and his or her reasoning why they selected them.

6. Each participant offers commentary on which sentence or passage was ranked the highest and why they think is was critical to answer the prompt or question. Sharing during the seminar is done in less than 2 minutes.

7. The first presenter gets the very last word, sharing how his / her reasoning evolved and or changed, how they deepened their understanding after hearing students emphasizing what they found important to them.

8. Every student must take the role of presenter.
9. Debrief Contextual Ideas Discussion: How others impacted your thinking.

10. Debrief Questions: What worked in our discussion? What were some challenges? Just how can we enhance this seminar next time?

Socratic Seminar | Close Reading Jigsaw


Purpose: This protocol permits small groups of students to engage in an effective, time-efficient way with a lengthier text. A reading comprehension “Cooperative Jigsaw” activity that teaches close reading strategies in a quick fun engaging way. Having every student read every part of a lengthier text might not always be necessary. Students can divide up the reading, writing, activates to become an expert in one area (Jigsaw). Students hear oral or written summaries associated with other students reading, they gain an understanding of the larger text and material context.

1. Divide the selected text into workable sections.

2. Arrange students into cooperative groups and assign them a section of the text to read, analyze and do a keyword outline. Assign students Lotus Notes or Cornell Note and paper for a keyword outline.

3. Participants read their section independently, looking for keywords, interesting  statements, important points, brand new information, or answers to questions.

4. Students use the keyword outline and Lotus Notes or Cornell Note to synthesize an adroit summary of their section of the text,

5. Each student takes turns and shares their summaries, key ideas, high points, interesting passages, sentences,  of his/her important “Ahh Haas” for the text.

6. After the discussion students independently “write” and reflect on their understanding  of the broader text to help them make it their own. Writing is not always necessary the refection is!

7. Debrief: Have cooperative groups share insights and discoveries. Did the seminar process help students gain an understanding of the whole text? What worked well for the group? Is there added discussion skills that need to be practiced? Are combined groups or smaller groups better? How could we improve this seminar and make it more fun and engaging? 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Academic Reading Journals | Response to Literature

Daily Response to Literature Lessons and Academic Reading Journals: Student Response to Literature

1. Daily response to literature practice helps support and scaffold
the lowest quartile students as they learn challenging reading concepts and writing skills. 
2. Response to Literature accelerates the student’s acquisition of the critical reading concepts, encourages attentive and close reading, exposure to tier 1, 2, and 3 vocabularies, enhances reading comprehension, and develops higher order of thinking and effective questioning skills. 
3. Journaling with a non judgmental writing coach deepens understanding of the writing processes and removes apprehension. 

4. Response to Literature lessons accelerates the student’s acquisition/understanding of the Six Traits of Writing, develops academic communication skills that are critical for transitioning to the new college and career standards.

Response to Literature or academic journaling is an essential instructional tool. I use Response to Literature or reading journals to: 1) encourage a life-long love of reading and writing; 2 ) teach the structures and strategies of close reading, the close writing process "Response to Literature" and Socratic seminar/inquiry; 3) teach students to be academic risk-takers, motivated learners, virtuous thinkers, curious questioners, academically responsible and interdependent learners; 4) accelerate the acquisition of the Response to Literature process; and 5) turn students great potential into real academic writing achievement.

Frequent writing about what you have read can develop and expand comprehension and vocabulary.

Expressing important ideas in writing helps the student organize ideas and strengthens connections to vocabulary.

Well-taught writing can help students' reading, Poorly taught writing can hinder students' reading

Response to literature Process for Intermediate Students Abstract
My students use response to literature journals daily during close reading instruction and Socratic inquiry. It begins with teaching students to select quality/challenging non-fiction, fiction, poetry, prose, or any well-written literature suitable for analysis. Next, we examine author’s purpose, literary elements, poetic devices or any other ELA domain through a collaborative Socratic inquiry process. Reading and writing instruction in my opinion should be used to build critical and strategic thinking and is always taught holistically in my class. We move into the complex task/skill of responding to a set of literary criterion “The TEST” that may be as simple as predicting the next set of events, adding or continuing the authors ideas, analytical summarization or analysis of complex literary elements. The students work with a partner or as a whole class to develop strategic graphic organizers, summarizing important facts, evaluating characters' opinions, identifying turning points, compare or contrast, evaluating the author's points of view, identifying author’s main ideas, noting key literary details, and choosing pertinent quotations. All the reading and writing instruction is focused through the lens of formative inquiry and enrichment to reinforce critical thinking, reading comprehension and the writing process. 

Part one is creating the Response to literature Journals or reading journals: The Reading Journals consists of close reading strategies, graphic organizers, interesting or important vocabulary, important sequential details, or Socratic questions that students want to ask during the weekly teacher conference. Tier 2 words are also listed and identified plus ten to fifteen detailed notes on the key literary elements are recorded for each response to literature by each student using Cornell Notes. Students then summarize the main ideas, authors’ purpose or other literary areas that are being analyzed. The use of the Six Traits Rubrics, Socratic seminar, cooperative structures and strategies and traditional paragraph structure instruction are modeled throughout the process. Response to literature can best be taught using a collaborative or cooperative learning model. Evaluation of author's main purpose or any other complex concept must be modeled and modeled in a collaborative format. The younger students always start with the basics of who, what, where, when, why and how! More advanced students create literary topics of discussion to share with student colleagues and teacher during the Socratic seminar. Advanced students may work independently and do additional analysis, critiques, margin notes, re-imagining a new literary ending, character summaries, connections they have made between other genres, books or poems.

Students conference with the teacher weekly and use their reading journals as an ongoing learning portfolio and as a collaborative tool with other students. The weekly conferences and journals are also used to insure that students are accountable, participating/collaborating and completing learning task and comprehending the assigned readings. An extended conference is scheduled as needed to support students who are not making gains in the close reading and “close” writing processes. Throughout this process, students are always given suggestions on how to improve their close reading skills, reading comprehension, modeled response to literature strategies, cooperative writing opportunities and improve their critical and strategic thinking.

By the end of the first 20 days of my Title I 4th grade class, students are often completing two full pages of responses for each selected close reading passage and Socratic seminar. The goal at this point is to have completed literary responses that are rich, exact, with cogent connections to the explicit stated goal of the literary response. Students are constantly instructed on how to work collaboratively, and build interdependent and independent work skills. All instruction is integrate with a Finnish model of instruction the to build a classroom team that can succeed and exceed. The reading process and the writing process must be taught as one, “One is none and two is one!” The ultimate goal is for students to become motivated, independent learners, exactly the type of students we want them to be.

Part two in this process includes revising, drafting, and editing each of the literary responses. The students collaborate with peers in an informal read aloud to a partner and the sharing of pre-edited responses. The students give each other feedback and as always when something is read aloud they find errors.  The teacher can participate as a listening only letting the student read their response out loud and giving verbal feedback.  Rereading editing and rereading gives students more freedom to try new things without the fear of failure. Using a sounding board model builds collaboration and can usually find structural errors and quality issues in a more formative learning environment. Students can review the author's main ideas, important facts, character development, settings, events, and turning points in the fear free writing zone.

Formative Conferences
Quick formative conferences, or spot checks, can be used at any time to check student’s on-task behavior, collaboration, understanding and accountability. Teachers or cooperative teams can do quick conferences to insure students comprehend the passage, vocabulary, important facts, literary devices, author’s ideas/purpose, main ideas, important outcomes/turning points, characters, settings, events, and even enjoyment. Students who show poor reading skills, collaborative skills, focus, and or comprehension of the literature are placed with a competent student, teacher, tutor or classroom parent. Students are asked to cooperate, collaborate and develop critical academic skills like taking quality notes, developing cogent questions, comprehending the literature they read, talking with peers using complete sentences, discussing academic ideas with the class, and as a teacher I am always looking for role models that demonstrate these skills to praise in front of the class. Students who fail to find the success are reinstructed one-on-one in an extended conference and are ask to model expected outcomes with other strong students.

Teachable Moments
Unknown vocabulary and important background information is explained to the entire class in detail to insure deeper meaning and understanding. Students are asked to never erase notes, responses, summaries, but to salvage what they have and use the margins for new ideas. The final part of the response to literature process is looking for teachable moments that the class can use to extended learning and critical thinking.

Value of Response to Literature Lessons | Read and Response Journaling

Journaling as you read is the most effective way of understanding a work of literature and strengthening understanding of the writing process at the same time. With journaling you integrate reading and writing, and you will find that you can relate to the story more completely, and experience every image, every conversation, every character, and every interesting adventure. Avoid hasty reading or skimming because it can prevent you from understanding the meaning of the book as a whole. Investigate everything fully; be prepared to learn and be inspired. Never skip a word you don’t know. Stop! Write it down! Seek the meaning! If you do skip the meaning, you are leaving a great treasure behind. Seek those characteristics that skilled writers observe in real life and integrate them into your journals, essays, letters and reports: perseverance, conflict, justice, injustice, challenge, courage, character, adversity, and apprehension. Engaging writing includes exciting precise key vocabulary, captivating dialogue, well organized plot, varied complex sentences, and grammatically refined prose with fresh original ideas. When you discover the deeper meaning and relate it to the content, you'll be on your way to understanding and loving books. Using great works of literature to examine, and compare and contrast with your own writing, will build knowledge of how to write great passages and prose yourself.

Homework Journals
Keep a response journal (homework journal) for all study areas, including art, music, science, social studies, and even field trips. Write your feelings, first impressions, funny moments, jokes, sketches, relationships, questions, quotations, and great topic sentences-anything that helps you start to look at professional writing structure. Learn to truly read and then learn to truly write.


Writing about reading makes students more conscious of making meaning as readers. It gives them insight into the reading and writing processes. Writing about reading accelerates, reinforces, and streamlines vocabulary acquisition and retention. Writing about reading makes struggling students more secure and comfortable to write with the support of the author’s vocabulary and paragraphs. Writing about reading makes students more independent, competent, motivated, and involved in all forms of academic text.

Writing about reading gives students ideas for their own texts. They reread and reflect upon their writing, which sparks fuller learning. Writing about reading supports students to take charge of their learning and make connections between different areas of learning. Seeing teachers and parents write in their own reading journals and sharing their writing reinforces the vital importance of writing for life-long learning. It also emphasizes the public nature of writing. Journal coaching supports the students as they reach for more complexity in their reading and writing. Journal coaching supports the students as they acquire the vocabulary and background knowledge to truly understand and enjoy the reading. 



GLOW Note: Students are engaged, meeting goals, did something fantastic, on task attentive or helping others! GROW Note: Students are working towards meeting goals but students can use some formative feedback to improve from “Not Yet?” to “Got It!” I also use Mighty Cards or a quick positive message on a post-it.

Glow Notes: 

  1. I like how you listen
  2. I like the way you try
  3. You made me happy when you  asked that great question
  4. Your reason was fantastic 
  5. That was a thoughtful answer

Grow Notes: 

  1. Please show me your a better way
  2. Why is this not ready for...
  3. Please explain why you did it this way
  4. Please help me understand your answer
  5. Why did you pick that strategy 
  6. Did you use your tools? 
  7. Please support your answer with more evidence

Teacher Feedback Questions: Was the Mini Lecture Well-Understood, Well-Delivered? Was the Pace of the Lecture…? Did you understand the Protocols, Models, Steps? Was this lesson interesting? Is the learning task clear? Is the task challenging? Are the questions relevant to the topics covered? The lesson inspires me to learn about complicated ideas. The teacher always helps me understand the material.

Student Reflective Feedback Question: I am learning so much I feel like a genius. The ideas I am learning are important. I am very happy with my effort in class. I am excited about my work ethic in class. I feel amazing that I’m learning boatloads in this class. I really enjoy learning and. This class is very challenging.

Learning Reflection Questions: 1. What did you learn? 2. Why is this important? 3. Did you and your partner work well together? 4. In this activity, what did you and your partner do well? 5. If we were to do this activity over, what would you and your partner do differently? 6. What changes to the activity will deepen your learning and understanding? Do you need more help from the teacher?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions | Socratic seminar

Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions | Socratic seminar | BEAT AROUND THE BUSH

Purpose: This Socratic seminar is designed to help students find the most significant attributes of a mystery
topic, by drawing conclusions, or inferring new meaning. Students are paired and given the opportunity to dialogue and uncover a mystery. What starts out as an abstract or obtuse idea should turn into a more substantial concept? Students practice drawing conclusions and making inference, they are encouraged to change their conclusions as they share and uncover new information. Students must draw on their own background knowledge and work in a fun, collaborative environment with new information from a variety of peers to discover new meaning.

1. Find contextual pictures or realia ”artifacts” that have associated abstract or concrete concepts. Before students begin show them an unknown item, and give them opportunities to infer!  (E.g. Slide-rule) The goal is for students to infer what's happening in the image or what the realia is used for. Images can consist of tangible to abstract ideas or concepts. Think, THIS OLD HOUSE mystery segment, when someone brings out some obscure tool, everyone draws a conclusion what the item is used for.

2. Teacher and or Students discuses with peers the critical attributes and strategies of drawing conclusions and making inference!

3. Have student’s choose Lotus or Cornell Notes to record their inference about the topic.

4. Students are given a new picture or realia ”artifacts” item to look over.

5. Students share with their partner what they infer or conclude from the pictures or realia and record ideas, images, conclusions or inferences.

6. In 2-3 minute or less, students look over each other’s notes, and discuss and record an inference from their partners. If a brand new idea is shared the partners write it as a collaborative conclusion.

7. Students take a walkabout, finding their next partner or group they will be sharing with. When prompted, partners stop and start sharing with another group of partners.

8. All four students share their realia, artifacts, pictures and inferences, discussing further ideas to make a new inference. If students are stumped they can select a topic of research.

9. The teacher invites a few groups to share their notes and their conclusion, inferences about the topic to see if any student had uncovered the mystery.

8. After a few rotations of students sharing, the teacher reveals the “mystery” and the big idea questions.  

  1. Student Debriefing: Ask students to share an inference that is different from the reviled meaning of their conclusions or images. Ask students in what way do their conclusions relate genuinely to the bigger concept. Discuss how students’ inferences did or did not change with dialogue and sharing.
  2. Ask students who, what, why: What modification should be made to improve this Socratic seminar. Ask students to name their favorite methods for inferring, and what questions still linger about the seminar. Who likes discussing and uncovering the mystery? Why or why not is this engaging drawing conclusions and making inference lesson. Is drawing conclusions and making inference a fun and important academic skill? Consider a class debriefing that records the big ideas on an anchor chart. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

SWAPPING NOTES | Socratic Seminar | Lotus Diagram Chart

SWAPPING NOTES | Lotus Notes Chart

Close Reading | Socratic Seminar | Close Reading Graphic Organizers | Lotus Diagram | Lotus Notes Chart

Purpose To discuss a topic or various topics and complete a Lotus Notes Chart. The protocol is used to give students different roles, rotating the role of the Boss, Scribe, Organizer, and Praiser, mixing up the groups of students up to 4 times.

Procedure 1. Form groups of 4 with a Boss, Scribe, Organizer, and Praiser that form a team.
2. Each group selects their own “Boss.” The leader’s role is to assign the other cooperative jobs.

Ø      The Scribes job is to record the main ideas, inferences, key words, and important points on their Lotus Notes Chart.
Ø      The job of the Boss is the conversation moderator.
Ø      The Organizer keeps the pacing quick and organized the materials.
Ø      The Praiser listens and praises teammates for their great ideas.  

4. The group discusses the topic at hand until time is called to review and preview. Teams can discuss one idea or theme but different themes and idea at each station is better.
3. The Scribe reads over the notes, and the Boss summarizes the conversation using the Lotus notes…a bit later. The teacher calls “CHANGE”
5. The Boss stays put; the rest of the group rotates to the next station.
6. The Boss gives a micro presentation to the new team members, discussing what was gleaned from the previous dialogue; they give a summary of the conversation recorded on the Lotus Notes. .
7. Each table selects a new Boss and the Socratic Seminar Continues.
8. Again, the team records the idea, paces the conversations, praise peers, moderates the conversation that takes place at the table and to then they summarize the conversation using the Lotus notes.
9. The teams discuss the questions presented in the Lotus note until time is called.
10.Repeat the seminar, preferably until all students have had a chance to be the Boss.
11.After the final rotation, the final group of Bosses do a micro presentation to the whole class.

When should you use Lotus Notes?

  • To promote logical and higher order thinking!
  • To increase perceptive and inferential dialogue
  • To enhance polite dialogue with structured interacts.
  • Helping students see other students thinking and analysis and brainstorming on varied topics
  • To brainstorm new ideas based on the analysis of the first round of brainstorming.
This ANALYTICAL GRAPHIC ORGANIZER  is used for organization complex ideas and brainstorming. It helps students break down complex concepts and topics of information, that may then be prioritized for additional study. Steps in creating a lotus diagram.

1. Determine topics for research and further ideas to be studied.
2. Brainstorm cognitive concepts and associated subjects into academic classifications.
3. Endless possibilities can be created using the lotus diagram, make it your own.
4. Place the main idea or theme in the center of the lotus diagram and decide the focus of concepts using your learning targets. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Milling to music | Micro Socratic Seminar

Musical Mingle and Milling to music: Play a song and let students mingle and share their class work, thinking, feelings, reflections or even homework in a fun way that gets students to interact. Musical Mingle or Milling to music is a great strategy for a quick brain break to practice conversation skills. Playing songs and giving students time move around the classroom and share ideas gives the teacher time to check for engagement and understating. Students will be re-energized and it gives reticent students or English Language Learners time to practice conversation skills. Extensions: As the music is playing, students move or dance around the room sharing something with their partner, partners take a bow or a curtsey and then move on. Have students share with a minimum of three peers.  

Teacher: pick a topic for students to discuss or share and explain the Milling to Music logistics.
1. Teacher: Share a question with the whole class.
2. Teacher: Play a song students like and can dance to.
3. Students: As the music plays, students walk or dance around the room.
4. Teacher: Stop the music.
5. Teacher: Repeat the question for the class and Bow or Curtsey to the class and thank them, asks students to have a Polite Conversation about the topic!
6. Student: Bows or Curtsey to the teacher and the students find a partner, and discuss the answer to the questions posed.
7. Repeat for a few rounds.

Rules for a polite conversation! Conversation is a sine quâ non of polite society.

Excerpt: GENTLEMEN’S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE Conversation 1860

1. To be a good listener is as indispensable as to be a good speaker.
2. Scholars of real intelligence and cultivated mind, is generally modest.
3. Never, unless you are requested to do so, speak of your own accomplishments.
4. Make your own share in conversation as modest and brief as is consistent with the subject under consideration.
5. The most important requisite for a good conversational power is education.




36 Cornhill.
Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by
in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.


One of the first rules for a guide in polite conversation, is to avoid political or religious discussions in general society. Such discussions lead almost invariably to irritating differences of opinion, often to open quarrels, and a coolness of feeling which might have been avoided by dropping the distasteful subject as soon as marked differences of opinion arose. It is but one out of many that can discuss either political or religious differences, with candor and judgment, and yet so far control his language and temper as to avoid either giving or taking offence.

In their place, in circles which have met for such discussions, in a tête à tête conversation, in a small party of gentlemen where each is ready courteously to listen to the others, politics may be discussed with perfect propriety, but in the drawing-room, at the dinner-table, or in the society of ladies, these topics are best avoided.

If you are drawn into such a discussion without intending to be so, be careful that your individual opinion{12} does not lead you into language and actions unbecoming a gentleman. Listen courteously to those whose opinions do not agree with yours, and keep your temper. A man in a passion ceases to be a gentleman.

Even if convinced that your opponent is utterly wrong, yield gracefully, decline further discussion, or dextrously turn the conversation, but do not obstinately defend your own opinion until you become angry, or more excited than is becoming to a gentleman.

Many there are who, giving their opinion, not as an opinion but as a law, will defend their position by such phrases, as: “Well, if I were president, or governor, I would,” &c.—and while by the warmth of their argument they prove that they are utterly unable to govern their own temper, they will endeavor to persuade you that they are perfectly competent to take charge of the government of the nation.

Retain, if you will, a fixed political opinion, yet do not parade it upon all occasions, and, above all, do not endeavor to force others to agree with you. Listen calmly to their ideas upon the same subjects, and if you cannot agree, differ politely, and while your opponent may set you down as a bad politician, let him be obliged to admit that you are a gentleman.

Wit and vivacity are two highly important ingredients in the conversation of a man in polite society, yet a straining for effect, or forced wit, is in excessively bad taste. There is no one more insupportable in society than the everlasting talkers who scatter puns, witticisms, and jokes with so profuse a hand that they become as tiresome as a comic newspaper, and whose loud laugh at{13} their own wit drowns other voices which might speak matter more interesting. The really witty man does not shower forth his wit so indiscriminately; his charm consists in wielding his powerful weapon delicately and easily, and making each highly polished witticism come in the right place and moment to be effectual. While real wit is a most delightful gift, and its use a most charming accomplishment, it is, like many other bright weapons, dangerous to use too often. You may wound where you meant only to amuse, and remarks which you mean only in for general applications, may be construed into personal affronts, so, if you have the gift, use it wisely, and not too freely.

The most important requisite for a good conversational power is education, and, by this is meant, not merely the matter you may store in your memory from observation or books, though this is of vast importance, but it also includes the developing of the mental powers, and, above all, the comprehension. An English writer says, “A man should be able, in order to enter into conversation, to catch rapidly the meaning of anything that is advanced; for instance, though you know nothing of science, you should not be obliged to stare and be silent, when a man who does understand it is explaining a new discovery or a new theory; though you have not read a word of Blackstone, your comprehensive powers should be sufficiently acute to enable you to take in the statement that may be made of a recent cause; though you may not have read some particular book, you should be capable of appreciating the criticism which you hear of it. Without such power—simple enough, and easily attained{14} by attention and practice, yet too seldom met with in general society—a conversation which departs from the most ordinary topics cannot be maintained without the risk of lapsing into a lecture; with such power, society becomes instructive as well as amusing, and you have no remorse at an evening’s end at having wasted three or four hours in profitless banter, or simpering platitudes. This facility of comprehension often startles us in some women, whose education we know to have been poor, and whose reading is limited. If they did not rapidly receive your ideas, they could not, therefore, be fit companions for intellectual men, and it is, perhaps, their consciousness of a deficiency which leads them to pay the more attention to what you say. It is this which makes married women so much more agreeable to men of thought than young ladies, as a rule, can be, for they are accustomed to the society of a husband, and the effort to be a companion to his mind has engrafted the habit of attention and ready reply.”

The same author says: “No less important is the cultivation of taste. If it is tiresome and deadening to be with people who cannot understand, and will not even appear to be interested in your better thoughts, it is almost repulsive to find a man insensible to all beauty, and immovable by any horror.

“In the present day an acquaintance with art, even if you have no love for it, is a sine quâ non of good society. Music and painting are subjects which will be discussed in every direction around you. It is only in bad society that people go to the opera, concerts, and art-exhibitions merely because it is the fashion, or to say{15} they have been there; and if you confessed to such a weakness in really good society, you would be justly voted a puppy. For this, too, some book knowledge is indispensable. You should at least know the names of the more celebrated artists, composers, architects, sculptors, and so forth, and should be able to approximate their several schools.

“So too, you should know pretty accurately the pronunciation of celebrated names, or, if not, take care not to use them. It will never do to be ignorant of the names and approximate ages of great composers, especially in large cities, where music is so highly appreciated and so common a theme. It will be decidedly condemnatory if you talk of the new opera ‘Don Giovanni,’ or Rossini’s ‘Trovatore,’ or are ignorant who composed ‘Fidelio,’ and in what opera occur such common pieces as ‘Ciascun lo dice,’ or ‘Il segreto.’ I do not say that these trifles are indispensable, and when a man has better knowledge to offer, especially with genius or ‘cleverness’ to back it, he will not only be pardoned for an ignorance of them, but can even take a high tone, and profess indifference or contempt of them. But, at the same time, such ignorance stamps an ordinary man, and hinders conversation. On the other hand the best society will not endure dilettantism, and, whatever the knowledge a man may possess of any art, he must not display it so as to make the ignorance of others painful to them. But this applies to every topic. To have only one or two subjects to converse on, and to discourse rather than talk on them, is always ill-bred, whether the theme be literature or horseflesh. The gentleman jockey{16} will probably denounce the former as a ‘bore,’ and call us pedants for dwelling on it; but if, as is too often the case, he can give us nothing more general than the discussion of the ‘points’ of a horse that, perhaps, we have never seen, he is as great a pedant in his way.

“Reason plays a less conspicuous part in good society because its frequenters are too reasonable to be mere reasoners. A disputation is always dangerous to temper, and tedious to those who cannot feel as eager as the disputants; a discussion, on the other hand, in which every body has a chance of stating amicably and unobtrusively his or her opinion, must be of frequent occurrence. But to cultivate the reason, besides its high moral value, has the advantage of enabling one to reply as well as attend to the opinions of others. Nothing is more tedious or disheartening than a perpetual, ‘Yes, just so,’ and nothing more. Conversation must never be one-sided. Then, again, the reason enables us to support a fancy or an opinion, when we are asked why we think so. To reply, ‘I don’t know, but still I think so,’ is silly and tedious.

“But there is a part of our education so important and so neglected in our schools and colleges, that it cannot be too highly impressed on the young man who proposes to enter society. I mean that which we learn first of all things, yet often have not learned fully when death eases us of the necessity—the art of speaking our own language. What can Greek and Latin, French and German be for us in our every-day life, if we have not acquired this? We are often encouraged to raise a laugh at Doctor Syntax and the tyranny of Grammar,{17} but we may be certain that more misunderstandings, and, therefore, more difficulties arise between men in the commonest intercourse from a want of grammatical precision than from any other cause. It was once the fashion to neglect grammar, as it now is with certain people to write illegibly, and, in the days of Goethe, a man thought himself a genius if he could spell badly.

“Precision and accuracy must begin in the very outset; and if we neglect them in grammar, we shall scarcely acquire them in expressing our thoughts. But since there is no society without interchange of thought, and since the best society is that in which the best thoughts are interchanged in the best and most comprehensible manner, it follows that a proper mode of expressing ourselves is indispensable in good society.

“The art of expressing one’s thoughts neatly and suitably is one which, in the neglect of rhetoric as a study, we must practice for ourselves. The commonest thought well put is more useful in a social point of view, than the most brilliant idea jumbled out. What is well expressed is easily seized, and therefore readily responded to; the most poetic fancy may be lost to the hearer, if the language which conveys it is obscure. Speech is the gift which distinguishes man from animals, and makes society possible. He has but a poor appreciation of his high privilege as a human being, who neglects to cultivate, ‘God’s great gift of speech.’

“As I am not writing for men of genius, but for ordinary beings, I am right to state that an indispensable part of education is a knowledge of the literature of the English language. But how to read, is, for{18} society more important than what we read. The man who takes up nothing but a newspaper, but reads it to think, to deduct conclusions from its premises, and form a judgment on its opinions, is more fitted for society than he, who having all the current literature and devoting his whole time to its perusal, swallows it all without digestion. In fact, the mind must be treated like the body, and however great its appetite, it will soon fall into bad health if it gorges, but does not ruminate. At the same time an acquaintance with the best current literature is necessary to modern society, and it is not sufficient to have read a book without being able to pass a judgment upon it. Conversation on literature is impossible, when your respondent can only say, ‘Yes. I like the book, but I really don’t know why.’

“An acquaintance with old English literature is not perhaps indispensable, but it gives a man great advantage in all kinds of society, and in some he is at a constant loss without it. The same may be said of foreign literature, which in the present day is almost as much discussed as our own; but, on the other hand, an acquaintance with home and foreign politics, with current history, and subjects of passing interest, is absolutely necessary; and a person of sufficient intelligence to join in good society, cannot dispense with his daily newspaper, his literary journal, and the principal reviews and magazines. The cheapness of every kind of literature, the facilities of our well stored circulating libraries, our public reading rooms, and numerous excellent lectures on every possible subject, leave no excuse to poor or rich for an ignorance of any of the topics discussed in{19} intellectual society. You may forget your Latin, Greek, French, German, and Mathematics, but if you frequent good company, you will never be allowed to forget that you are a citizen of the world.”

A man of real intelligence and cultivated mind, is generally modest. He may feel when in every day society, that in intellectual acquirements he is above those around him; but he will not seek to make his companions feel their inferiority, nor try to display this advantage over them. He will discuss with frank simplicity the topics started by others, and endeavor to avoid starting such as they will not feel inclined to discuss. All that he says will be marked by politeness and deference to the feelings and opinions of others.

La Bruyere says, “The great charm of conversation consists less in the display of one’s own wit and intelligence, than in the power to draw forth the resources of others; he who leaves you after a long conversation, pleased with himself and the part he has taken in the discourse, will be your warmest admirer. Men do not care to admire you, they wish you to be pleased with them; they do not seek for instruction or even amusement from your discourse, but they do wish you to be made acquainted with their talents and powers of conversation; and the true man of genius will delicately make all who come in contact with him, feel the exquisite satisfaction of knowing that they have appeared to advantage.”

Having admitted the above to be an incontestable fact, you will also see that it is as great an accomplishment{20} to listen with an air of interest and attention, as it is to speak well.

To be a good listener is as indispensable as to be a good talker, and it is in the character of listener that you can most readily detect the man who is accustomed to good society. Nothing is more embarrassing to any one who is speaking, than to perceive signs of weariness or inattention in the person whom he addresses.

Never interrupt any one who is speaking; it is quite as rude to officiously supply a name or date about which another hesitates, unless you are asked to do so. Another gross breach of etiquette, is to anticipate the point of a story which another person is reciting, or to take it from his lips to finish it in your own language. Some persons plead as an excuse for this breach of etiquette, that the reciter was spoiling a good story by a bad manner, but this does not mend the matter. It is surely rude to give a man to understand that you do not consider him capable of finishing an anecdote that he has commenced.

It is ill-bred to put on an air of weariness during a long speech from another person, and quite as rude to look at a watch, read a letter, flirt the leaves of a book, or in any other action show that you are tired of the speaker or his subject.

In a general conversation, never speak when another person is speaking, and never try by raising your own voice to drown that of another. Never assume an air of haughtiness, or speak in a dictatorial manner; let your conversation be always amiable and frank, free from every affectation.

{21}Put yourself on the same level as the person to whom you speak, and under penalty of being considered a pedantic idiot, refraining from explaining any expression or word that you may use.

Never, unless you are requested to do so, speak of your own business or profession in society; to confine your conversation entirely to the subject or pursuit which is your own speciality is low-bred and vulgar.

Make the subject for conversation suit the company in which you are placed. Joyous, light conversation will be at times as much out of place, as a sermon would be at a dancing party. Let your conversation be grave or gay as suits the time or place.

In a dispute, if you cannot reconcile the parties, withdraw from them. You will surely make one enemy, perhaps two, by taking either side, in an argument when the speakers have lost their temper.

Never gesticulate in every day conversation, unless you wish to be mistaken for a fifth rate comedian.

Never ask any one who is conversing with you to repeat his words. Nothing is ruder than to say, “Pardon me, will you repeat that sentence—I did not hear you at first,” and thus imply that your attention was wandering when he first spoke.

Never, during a general conversation, endeavor to concentrate the attention wholly upon yourself. It is quite as rude to enter into conversation with one of a group, and endeavor to draw him out of the circle of general conversation to talk with you alone.

Never listen to the conversation of two persons who have thus withdrawn from a group. If they are so near{22} you that you cannot avoid hearing them, you may, with perfect propriety, change your seat.

Make your own share in conversation as modest and brief as is consistent with the subject under consideration, and avoid long speeches and tedious stories. If, however, another, particularly an old man, tells a long story, or one that is not new to you, listen respectfully until he has finished, before you speak again.

Speak of yourself but little. Your friends will find out your virtues without forcing you to tell them, and you may feel confident that it is equally unnecessary to expose your faults yourself.

If you submit to flattery, you must also submit to the imputation of folly and self-conceit.

In speaking of your friends, do not compare them, one with another. Speak of the merits of each one, but do not try to heighten the virtues of one by contrasting them with the vices of another.

No matter how absurd are the anecdotes that may be told in your presence, you must never give any sign of incredulity. They may be true; and even if false, good breeding forces you to hear them with polite attention, and the appearance of belief. To show by word or sign any token of incredulity, is to give the lie to the narrator, and that is an unpardonable insult.

Avoid, in conversation all subjects which can injure the absent. A gentleman will never calumniate or listen to calumny.

Need I say that no gentleman will ever soil his mouth with an oath. Above all, to swear in a drawing-room or before ladies is not only indelicate and vulgar in the{23}extreme, but evinces a shocking ignorance of the rules of polite society and good breeding.

For a long time the world has adopted a certain form of speech which is used in good society, and which changing often, is yet one of the distinctive marks of a gentleman. A word or even a phrase which has been used among the most refined circles, will, sometimes, by a sudden freak of fashion, from being caricatured in a farce or song, or from some other cause, go entirely out of use. Nothing but habitual intercourse with people of refinement and education, and mingling in general society, will teach a gentleman what words to use and what to avoid. Yet there are some words which are now entirely out of place in a parlor.

Avoid a declamatory style; some men, before speaking, will wave their hands as if commanding silence, and, having succeeded in obtaining the attention of the company, will speak in a tone, and style, perfectly suitable for the theatre or lecture room, but entirely out of place in a parlor. Such men entirely defeat the object of society, for they resent interruption, and, as their talk flows in a constant stream, no one else can speak without interrupting the pompous idiot who thus endeavors to engross the entire attention of the circle around him.

This character will be met with constantly, and generally joins to the other disagreeable traits an egotism as tiresome as it is ill-bred.

The wittiest man becomes tedious and ill-bred when he endeavors to engross entirely the attention of the company in which he should take a more modest part.

Avoid set phrases, and use quotations but rarely.{24} They sometimes make a very piquant addition to conversation, but when they become a constant habit, they are exceedingly tedious, and in bad taste.

Avoid pedantry; it is a mark, not of intelligence, but stupidity.

Speak your own language correctly; at the same time do not be too great a stickler for formal correctness of phrases.

Never notice it if others make mistakes in language. To notice by word or look such errors in those around you, is excessively ill-bred.

Vulgar language and slang, though in common, unfortunately too common use, are unbecoming in any one who pretends to be a gentleman. Many of the words heard now in the parlor and drawing-room, derive their origin from sources which a gentleman would hesitate to mention before ladies, yet he will make daily use of the offensive word or phrase.

If you are a professional or scientific man, avoid the use of technical terms. They are in bad taste, because many will not understand them. If, however, you unconsciously use such a term or phrase, do not then commit the still greater error of explaining its meaning. No one will thank you for thus implying their ignorance.

In conversing with a foreigner who speaks imperfect English, listen with strict attention, yet do not supply a word, or phrase, if he hesitates. Above all, do not by a word or gesture show impatience if he makes pauses or blunders. If you understand his language, say so when you first speak to him; this is not making a display of your own knowledge, but is a kindness, as a foreigner{25} will be pleased to hear and speak his own language when in a strange country.

Be careful in society never to play the part of buffoon, for you will soon become known as the “funny” man of the party, and no character is so perilous to your dignity as a gentleman. You lay yourself open to both censure and ridicule, and you may feel sure that, for every person who laughs with you, two are laughing at you, and for one who admires you, two will watch your antics with secret contempt.

Avoid boasting. To speak of your money, connections, or the luxuries at your command is in very bad taste. It is quite as ill-bred to boast of your intimacy with distinguished people. If their names occur naturally in the course of conversation, it is very well; but to be constantly quoting, “my friend, Gov. C——,” or “my intimate friend, the president,” is pompous and in bad taste.

While refusing the part of jester yourself, do not, by stiff manners, or cold, contemptuous looks, endeavor to check the innocent mirth of others. It is in excessively bad taste to drag in a grave subject of conversation when pleasant, bantering talk is going on around you. Join in pleasantly and forget your graver thoughts for the time, and you will win more popularity than if you chill the merry circle or turn their innocent gayety to grave discussions.

When thrown into the society of literary people, do not question them about their works. To speak in terms of admiration of any work to the author is in bad taste; but you may give pleasure, if, by a quotation from{26} their writings, or a happy reference to them, you prove that you have read and appreciated them.

It is extremely rude and pedantic, when engaged in general conversation, to make quotations in a foreign language.

To use phrases which admit of a double meaning, is ungentlemanly, and, if addressed to a lady, they become positively insulting.

If you find you are becoming angry in a conversation, either turn to another subject or keep silence. You may utter, in the heat of passion, words which you would never use in a calmer moment, and which you would bitterly repent when they were once said.

“Never talk of ropes to a man whose father was hanged” is a vulgar but popular proverb. Avoid carefully subjects which may be construed into personalities, and keep a strict reserve upon family matters. Avoid, if you can, seeing the skeleton in your friend’s closet, but if it is paraded for your special benefit, regard it as a sacred confidence, and never betray your knowledge to a third party.

If you have traveled, although you will endeavor to improve your mind in such travel, do not be constantly speaking of your journeyings. Nothing is more tiresome than a man who commences every phrase with, “When I was in Paris,” or, “In Italy I saw——.”

When asking questions about persons who are not known to you, in a drawing-room, avoid using adjectives; or you may enquire of a mother, “Who is that awkward, ugly girl?” and be answered, “Sir, that is my daughter.”

{27}Avoid gossip; in a woman it is detestable, but in a man it is utterly despicable.

Do not officiously offer assistance or advice in general society. Nobody will thank you for it.

Ridicule and practical joking are both marks of a vulgar mind and low breeding.

Avoid flattery. A delicate compliment is permissible in conversation, but flattery is broad, coarse, and to sensible people, disgusting. If you flatter your superiors, they will distrust you, thinking you have some selfish end; if you flatter ladies, they will despise you, thinking you have no other conversation.

A lady of sense will feel more complimented if you converse with her upon instructive, high subjects, than if you address to her only the language of compliment. In the latter case she will conclude that you consider her incapable of discussing higher subjects, and you cannot expect her to be pleased at being considered merely a silly, vain person, who must be flattered into good humor.

Avoid the evil of giving utterance to inflated expressions and remarks in common conversation.

It is a somewhat ungrateful task to tell those who would shrink from the imputation of a falsehood that they are in the daily habit of uttering untruths; and yet, if I proceed, no other course than this can be taken by me. It is of no use to adopt half measures; plain speaking saves a deal of trouble.

The examples about to be given by me of exaggerated expressions, are only a few of the many that are constantly in use. Whether you can acquit yourselves of{28} the charge of occasionally using them, I cannot tell; but I dare not affirm for myself that I am altogether guiltless.

“I was caught in the wet last night, the rain came down in torrents.” Most of us have been out in heavy rains; but a torrent of water pouring down from the skies would a little surprise us, after all.

“I am wet to the skin, and have not a dry thread upon me.” Where these expressions are once used correctly, they are used twenty times in opposition to the truth.

“I tried to overtake him, but in vain; for he ran like lightning.” The celebrated racehorse Eclipse is said to have run a mile in a minute, but poor Eclipse is left sadly behind by this expression.

“He kept me standing out in the cold so long, I thought I should have waited for ever.” There is not a particle of probability that such a thought could have been for one moment entertained.

“As I came across the common, the wind was as keen as a razor.” This is certainly a very keen remark, but the worst of it is that its keenness far exceeds its correctness.

“I went to the meeting, but had hard work to get in; for the place was crowded to suffocation.” In this case, in justice to the veracity of the relater, it is necessary to suppose that successful means had been used for his recovery.

“It must have been a fine sight; I would have given the world to have seen it.” Fond as most of us are of sight-seeing, this would be buying pleasure at a dear{29} price indeed; but it is an easy thing to proffer to part with that which we do not possess.

“It made me quite low spirited; my heart felt as heavy as lead.” We most of us know what a heavy heart is; but lead is by no means the most correct metaphor to use in speaking of a heavy heart.

“I could hardly find my way, for the night was as dark as pitch.” I am afraid we have all in our turn calumniated the sky in this manner; pitch is many shades darker than the darkest night we have ever known.

“I have told him of that fault fifty times over.” Five times would, in all probability, be much nearer the fact than fifty.

“I never closed my eyes all night long.” If this be true, you acted unwisely; for had you closed your eyes, you might, perhaps, have fallen asleep, and enjoyed the blessing of refreshing slumber; if it be not true, you acted more unwisely still, by stating that as a fact which is altogether untrue.

“He is as tall as a church-spire.” I have met with some tall fellows in my time, though the spire of a church is somewhat taller than the tallest of them.

“You may buy a fish at the market as big as a jackass, for five shillings.” I certainly have my doubts about this matter; but if it be really true, the market people must be jackasses indeed to sell such large fishes for so little money.

“He was so fat he could hardly come in at the door.” Most likely the difficulty here alluded to was never felt by any one but the relater; supposing it to be otherwise,{30} the man must have been very broad or the door very narrow.

“You don’t say so!—why, it was enough to kill him!” The fact that it did not kill him is a sufficient reply to this unfounded observation; but no remark can be too absurd for an unbridled tongue.

Thus might I run on for an hour, and after all leave much unsaid on the subject of exaggerated expressions. We are hearing continually the comparisons, “black as soot, white as snow, hot as fire, cold as ice, sharp as a needle, dull as a door-nail, light as a feather, heavy as lead, stiff as a poker, and crooked as a crab-tree,” in cases where such expressions are quite out of order.

The practice of expressing ourselves in this inflated and thoughtless way, is more mischievous than we are aware of. It certainly leads us to sacrifice truth; to misrepresent what we mean faithfully to describe; to whiten our own characters, and sometimes to blacken the reputation of a neighbor. There is an uprightness in speech as well as in action, that we ought to strive hard to attain. The purity of truth is sullied, and the standard of integrity is lowered, by incorrect observations. Let us reflect upon this matter freely and faithfully. Let us love truth, follow truth, and practice truth in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds.