George Bernard Shaw observed: “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still have an apple. If you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” For example, in a classroom this morning a small group of learners were discussing a book about apples (this is what we call a literature circle). One member commented: “I like Gala apples because they are sweeter.” Another child added, “But Red Delicious are really sweet too; I eat these for dessert sometimes.” Still another chimed in: “When my granny makes pie she uses Granny Smith green apples even though they’re more tart than the other two–she just adds extra sugar!” Clearly, these learners were taking personal apple experiences and holding each other accountable for their observations. They were listening, really listening, to one another and contributing ideas to the discussion. Their statements were also offering evidence to support their experiences.
I want to jump for JOY (I know; not a pretty picture) when I hear conversations such as this! Learners are thinking about, talking about, and sharing together their ideas in a way that teaches active listening. The exchange of ideas teaches teamwork, collaboration, and cooperation–all skills we need to survive in the “real” world.
As I’ve noted before, school is not all books and structured instruction; many activities lend themselves to self-discovery and inquiry. I challenge you to ask a simple question and expand on the response with your child today, but whether it’s apples or other ideas, I hope we are all really listening!