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Students show minds of their own

The story Comments on it
Sharon was teaching a literature lesson using a picture book, Dr. DeSoto. She had read the story to her second graders, and together they were constructing a plot profile using the main events from the story. Sharon thought the story’s plot profile should reflect a common “bell curve” which shows the story gradually building up to a problem and then winding down to a resolution. Sharon’s aim was to help students understand a story profile and she knew what she wanted the children to say.
But her students disagreed. They thought that there were two different times when the story built up to a problem and that the resulting profile would have at two different "hills" in it. Sharon thought she could convince her students by telling them her reasons and that they would agree with her. They didn't. Instead, they gave her good reasons from the text for why they were thinking differently than she was.  Did Sharon somehow lose face or fail to teach by allowing her students to disagree with her?

Sharon gave in, but felt confused about her decision. She wondered if she should have been more assertive about her ideas, so she posed the problem to her mentor, Joan. Joan said, "I see why you're wondering, but maybe we should consider the possibility that this is a good thing. We say we want students to think for themselves, so we can't rightly get upset when they do so. Was their interpretation reasonable?" That remark launched a conversation about what Sharon and Joan hoped to accomplish in elementary literacy, how they could go about it and how Sharon might respond to students in a similar situation.

Joan introduced an interpretation that Sharon was not considering. In that move, she brought Sharon back to thinking about basic goals of literacy teaching. Their conversation could go in many directions from here, but it would proceed on a different footing.