ELA at GAP: Constructing Knowledge Through Discussion
In addition to the very important reading and writing skills GAP Learners acquire in English Language Arts at GAP, Learners also develop oral communication skills, including the art of discussion. The School of Public affairs at American University clarifies that civil discourse is “truthful, productive, audience-based, about listening and talking, and relies on each speaker to take responsibility for their words.”
Meaningful discussion is about much more than being polite. Even the youngest children can learn that, by listening and speaking to one another, they can build useful knowledge and understanding, together. As a group, they are empowered to set their own guidelines for engagement and intentions for collaborative discussion work.
In ELA at GAP, discussion is usually centered on a text – a picture book, a novel, a nonfiction book, a poem, or a short story. In their talks together, the Learners construct knowledge about themselves, one another, the natural world, and humanity, as well as abstract concepts like justice, compassion, and perseverance. During discussion of Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World, Learners discovered together, through discussion, that many meaningful parallels exist among winter festivals across time, throughout the world, and among one another’s families. Second grade learners, in their discussions of the classic children’s novel Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, helped each other better understand challenging ethical concepts, like when it is or is not acceptable to bend the rules.
GAP Learners have many opportunities to become models of productive, meaningful civil discourse. Here is a brief video about the role back-and-forth interactions play in brain development.