In a moment when dialog has never been more important, Michael Sherry has written a book that provides teachers – across grade levels and subjects – the tools for promoting and sustaining meaningful classroom discussion. Drawing on rich examples from real classrooms, each chapter builds on the previous to develop a complex picture of how classroom discussions fail and succeed in an array of contexts. Teachers will find this book engaging, accessible, and full of practical solutions grounded in a robust theory and scholarship.
How to Facilitate Meaningful Classroom Conversations offers teachers and teacher educators invaluable guidance on the complex dynamics of classroom dialogue and how to manage them productively, across disciplines, settings, and topics. The book is an extraordinary accomplishment: it communicates sophisticated ideas about discourse, interaction, learning and identity in an accessible, conversational manner; it grounds its exposition in vivid examples of real classroom discussions, thoughtfully analyzed; it offers readers dozens of practical activities and sensitive guidance on how to enact them; and it is beautifully written, at times even moving.
In this compelling volume, Michael Sherry uses dialogic theory in its proper historical conception, moving dialogism beyond its customary reduction to immediate interaction, and situating it more properly as a “conversation” taking place across time to produce genres and their conventions. I am impressed with his use of dialogic theory in robustly historical ways to investigate communicative and interactive possibilities in relation to how learning environments are organized and semiotically composed. His research thus goes beyond the study of what happened in a particular classroom, instead locating these classrooms in a historical context such that they serve as instantiations of speech conventions and social languages that comprise disciplinary discourse. A terrific outing that I hope finds a broad readership.
Over the years, I’ve learned that I can count on Michael Sherry to offer fresh, in-depth insights on enduring concerns for teachers. This book is no exception. In his typical style, Michael offers a rich set of examples and data, then helps readers to notice and interpret the layers in ways that meaningfully change how we think about teaching and learning. ‘Running a discussion’ is one of the great challenges of good teaching. Michael equips readers with the insights to be effective in fostering discussions that help students learn how to learn.
Mike Sherry has thought more deeply about discussion than anyone I know—and it shows in this book. He offers a clear vision of both the “how” and the “why” of classroom discussion. The book helped me see discussion in a new way, and it challenged me to reflect on how I can bring it to my own teaching. Any teacher, at any level or in any context, can learn from this book.
Sherry is expert at making visible the ways and reasons some traditional teaching practices hinder whole group discussion, despite our best intentions to do the opposite. Rooted in transcripts from real classrooms--across grade levels, subject areas, and teaching contexts--this book offers teachers detailed support for achieving higher quality classroom talk with their students. This book will be a go-to resource for me and the teachers I teach!