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Challenging Learning Through Dialogue

Challenging Learning Through Dialogue
Strategies to Engage Your Students and Develop Their Language of Learning

First Edition

Foreword by Douglas Fisher

January 2017 | 208 pages | Corwin

Using classroom discussions to teach good habits of thinking 

Classroom discussion has a major effect on student learning. In fact, dialogue is one of the best vehicles for learning how to think, make moral decisions, and understand another person’s point of view. Research also indicates that most teachers talk too much in the classroom and don’t wait long enough for students to respond. How do we improve the quality of classroom discussion? Challenging Learning Through Dialogue transforms the most up-to-date research into practical strategies that work. Readers will learn

  • How to build in more “wait-time” for better quality thinking and questioning from students
  • How to use dialogue to teach reasoning, collaboration, and good habits of thinking
  • The three types of dialogue and how to teach the most effective version: exploratory talk
  • Dozens of practical strategies for exploratory dialogue
  • Global examples of fun ways to teach dialogue
  • An innovative new instructional strategy called Classroom Mysteries

Written by an internationally known team of educational innovators, this book is for all educators who aim to use effective classroom dialogue to engage students in learning. 

"This valuable book is a must for teachers and families who wish to have their children learn to think and communicate with greater precision and clarity.”
Arthur L. Costa, Ed. D., Professor Emeritus
California State University Sacramento and Co-Director, International Institute for Habits of Mind

"James Nottingham’s work on Challenging Learning is a critical element of creating Visible Learners. This new series will help teachers hone the necessary pedagogical skills of dialogue, feedback, questioning, and mindset.”
John Hattie, Professor & Director, Melbourne Education Research Institute
University of Melbourne

List of Figures
The Challenging Learning Story
Foreword by Douglas Fisher
About the Authors
The Language of Learning
Chapter 1: Why Dialogue?
1.0 Why Dialogue?

1.1 Reasons for Dialogue 1: Learning How to Think

1.2 Reasons for Dialogue 2: From Surface to Deep

1.3 Reasons for Dialogue 3: Creating a Climate of Trust

1.4 Reasons for Dialogue 4: Developing Language to Express Understanding

1.5 Review

1.6 Next Steps

Chapter 2: Dialogue Essentials
2.0 Dialogue Basics

2.1 Putting Dialogue in the Context of Educational Objectives

2.2 The Hidden Classroom

2.3 Active Engagement

2.4 Conditions for Successful Dialogue

2.5 Language for Dialogue

2.6 Exploratory Talk

2.7 Review

2.8 Next Steps and Further Reading

Chapter 3: Dialogue to Engage Students
3.0 Preview

3.1 Getting the Ethos Right

3.2 Issuing Invitations

3.3 Encouraging and Engaging

3.4 Restating

3.5 Reformulating

3.6 Review

3.7 Next Steps and Further Reading

Chapter 4: One Way to Learn How to Think: Develop Reasoning
4.0 Preview

4.1 The Language of Reasoning

4.2 Developing the Language of Reasoning

4.3 Process of Reasoning

4.4 Routines to Develop Reasoning

4.5 Developing a Reasoning Repertoire

4.6 Reasoning Moves

4.7 Review

4.8 Next Steps

Chapter 5: Dialogue Groupings
5.0 Preview

5.1 Dialogue Groupings

5.2 Ground Rules for Dialogue Groups

5.3 Whole-Group Dialogue

5.4 Splitting Large Groups Into Two

5.5 Small-Group Dialogues With a Teacher

5.6 Small-Group Dialogues Without a Teacher

5.7 Final Word About Groupings

5.8 Review

5.9 Next Steps and Further Reading

Chapter 6: Dialogue Detectives
6.0 Preview

6.1 Appointing Dialogue Detectives

6.2 Clues to Detect: Focusing on Performance

6.3 Clues to Detect: Focusing on Thinking Structures

6.4 Other Clues to Detect

6.5 Review

6.6 Next Steps and Further Reading

Chapter 7: Dialogue Structures
7.0 Preview

7.1 Paired Dialogue

7.2 Opinion Lines

7.3 Opinion Corners

7.4 Choosing Corners

7.5 Talking Heads

7.6 Jigsaw Groups

7.7 Clustering

7.8 Review

7.9 Next Steps and Further Reading

Chapter 8: Mysteries
8.0 Preview

8.1 Mysteries

8.2 Running a Mystery

8.3 Mysteries in Practice

8.4 Questioning Cause and Effect Within Mysteries

8.5 Reviewing a Mystery Using the SOLO Taxonomy

8.6 Writing Your Own Mysteries

8.7 Review

8.8 Next Steps and Further Reading

8.9.1 Mystery: Should Bjørn Move to France?

8.9.2 Mystery: Louis Pasteur and the Anthrax Vaccine

8.9.3 Mystery: Is Sally a Good Friend?

Chapter 9: Odd One Out
9.0 Preview

9.1 Odd One Out

9.2 Benefits of Odd One Out

9.3 How to Use Odd One Out Effectively

9.4 Why and When to Use Odd One Out

9.5 Odd One Out Variations

9.6 Odd One Out Examples

9.7 Extending Odd One Out With Venn Diagrams

9.8 Review

9.9 Next Steps and Further Reading

Chapter 10: Fortune Lines
10.0 Preview

10.1 Fortune Lines

10.2 Using Fortune Lines

10.3 Fortune Line of Henry VIII

10.4 Fortune Line for a Visit to Grandma's

10.5 Review

10.6 Next Steps and Further Reading

Chapter 11: Philosophy for Children (P4C)
11.0 Preview

11.1 Philosophy for Children

11.2 The Community of Inquiry

11.3 Philosophical Questions

11.4 Dialogue Through P4C

11.5 P4C Sequence—Overview

11.6 P4C Sequence—In Depth

11.7 Review

11.8 Next Steps and Further Reading

Chapter 12: Dialogue Exercises in P4C
12.0 Preview

12.1 Dialogue Exercises

12.2 Make a Choice, Give a Reason

12.3 Concept Stretching: Fairness

12.4 Review

12.5 Next Steps and Further Reading

Appendix 1. Dialogue Detectives
Appendix 2. Louis Pasteur Script
Repertoire and Judgment Notes

"We know that teachers do too much of the talking in the classroom, and they know it too. But too often their first question is “How do we get students to talk more?”  Nottingham, Nottingham and Renton have helped answer that question. Challenging Learning is filled with practical advice and important activities that will help increase dialogue in classrooms!"

Peter DeWitt, Author/Consultant
Albany, NY

"This work from Nottingham, Nottingham, and Renton clearly demonstrates first how to create both the moral and instructional imperative to increase student voice and dialogue for meaning-making between teacher and student in all classrooms.  They then articulate countless ways for how to do so in practical, meaningful, and relevant ways that allow any teacher to begin to do so tomorrow.  This work should be in the hands of every teacher and administrator before they walk in your school."

Dave Nagel, Author Consultant
Corwin Press/NZJ Learning

"In my position as the gifted specialist I work with both students and teachers. I help support teachers in planning to meet the needs of my students, as well as working with beginning teachers.  All would benefit from incorporating Dialogue in [their] content areas. This book could quite frankly change a lot of classroom practices–it wasn't preachy–it was informative and a great guide to engage students."

Susan Leeds, Gifted Specialist
Winter Park High

"This book is a great tool for educators interested in making dialogue work in the classroom. [It] is really clear and easy to follow with sample dialogue structures that teachers can use and examples to follow. I recommend it for individual educators, teams, [and] districts…"

Kara Vandas, Corwin Author/Consultant
Castle Rock, CO

"Like either side of a coin, language and thinking and inseparably entwined. Our thoughts direct our language and our language conveys our thoughts. Efficacious thinkers, therefore, enhance their thinking by enriching their linguistic capacities. And that is what this valuable book is about. It is a must for teachers and families who wish to have their children learn to think and communicate with greater precision and clarity. Filled with rich background information, myriad protocols, practical learning strategies, and vivid examples, this book can teach us all how to listen more attentively and to communicate more thoughtfully. It is what the world needs now."

Arthur L. Costa, Ed. D., Professor Emeritus
California State University Sacramento and Co-Director, International Institute for Habits of Mind.

"James Nottingham has masterfully explained what dialogue is and how to use it in the classroom through powerful strategies. These powerful strategies challenge students to engage in deep thinking and understanding. The myriad of examples bring the strategies to life and I could envision the possible student exchanges with the use of these strategies as I was reading."

Tracy Shiel, Corwin Author/Consultant
Walla Walla, WA

"James Nottingham thinks most teachers do too much of the talking in the classroom. His newest offering from the Challenging Learning series is a stand-alone exploration of how to use reasonable, student-generated dialogue to move from surface-level learning to deep understanding. Nottingham uses relevant research, instructive examples, and a wealth of resource tools to help educators guide students in how to think rather than what to think. Regardless of grade level or discipline, teachers who want to hone their mastery skills will appreciate this useful book."

Debbie Silver, Ed.D., Author
Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8: Teaching Kids to Succeed and Deliberate Optimism: Reclaiming the Joy in Education

"Sitting among eager students engaged in what James Nottingham calls “exploratory talk” is, indeed, a thrilling experience, because we are witnessing authentic wonder, inquiry, critical thinking, and reflection all in pursuit of deeper understanding of complex issues and ideas. In this book Nottingham presents viable approaches for such talk, for learning how to think. One result is “to make us wobble,” not in commitment but in considering the thoroughness of all our thinking. This is a splendid contribution to our literature in these days where the matter of rigorous, performance standards is in much need of debate and dialogue."

John Barell, Author
Why Are School Buses Always Yellow? and Problem-Based Learning

"The best kinds of teaching books do three things: show me what I'm doing; cast a compelling vision for how I could be doing it better; and provide me practical tools for turning the present reality into the compelling vision. With those criteria, I can only call this a new member of the best kinds of teaching books. I am eager to infuse dialogue into the speaking and listening work my students and I do together."

Dave Stuart, Jr., Speaker, Literacy Consultant, and Author
A Non-Freaked Out Guide to Teaching the Common Core, Cedar Springs, MI

"This book reminds teachers of the power of dialogue to develop deeper learning. It provides a groundbreaking framework with specific strategies teachers can use as they move students toward deeper understanding through dialogue."


John Spencer, Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology and Author
Confident Voices: Digital Tools for Language Acquisition, George Fox University, Portland, OR
Key features
Teachers will find:
  • How to build in more "wait time" for better quality thinking and questioning from students
  • How to use dialogue to teach reasoning, collaboration, and good habits of thinking
  • The three types of dialogue and how to teach the most effective dialogue: explorative
  • Dozens of practical strategies for explorative dialogue
  • Global examples of fun ways to teach dialogue

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

For instructors

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