Keeping the conversation real

I have recently begun back channeling in my 5/6 classroom.  Back channeling is where you provide a space to allow a conversation to carry on, usually whilst you are teaching or throughout a lesson.  It allows a real time conversation to occur while you are teaching.

I used the Community Chat application on the Ultranet (Victorian Department of Education’s Virtual Learning Environment). This is a great space to use as it is in a walled garden but if you are not a VIctorian teacher you can still back channel through spaces such as Today’s Meet, Edmodo or Chatzy where you can set up a private room and students do not need to sign up to be involved.

Before beginning our first chat we discussed online safety and the importance to read over what we have written before hitting the send button.  Children were aware that once you post a comment it can not be taken back and they should check that what they mean to get across is actually what is written.  They also understood that there is no private conversation and everyone can see what you write.

At first I gave students an opportunity to just chat.  And I admit there wasn’t much of that!  Plenty of one word responses or questions such as ‘Hello?’ or ‘Cool’ but it didn’t take long for kids to extend these to ‘I love nachos’ and ‘I am so cool!’  Yes – I realised there was a little bit of work to do first!

chat roomphoto © 2005 doug wilson | more info (via: Wylio)

How does back channelling look in your classroom?

The next time I used it I gave students a task – to listen to the story I was reading and ask a question about the text.  The great thing about this was that other students started to answer these questions.  And all while I was busy reading a book!

Don’t get me wrong, there was still some chat about how much they loved Justin Beiber or how much they disliked Justin Beiber but after using back channelling with a group of adults recently I noticed a lot of discussion about favourite football teams!

But what was happening, was a great opportunity for students to ask questions that could be answered in real time. They didn’t have to wait for me to finish.  They could share their thoughts and respond to ideas as I was reading.  And I could then see all of this at the end of the lesson and follow up on anything I needed to.  Even students who don’t usually like to share were joining in.

We now use back channeling every time we read and I have loved seeing how the conversation behind the book is developing.  Of course there is still a fair bit talk about nachos but I see this disappearing.  I look forward to using more back channeling in the classroom.

Have you used back channeling?

What does back channeling look like in your classroom?