The lesson plan

The lesson plan

October 5, 2005 

(What's being taught in Bill Ferriter's sixth-grade language arts class at Salem Middle School in Apex.)


"We are beginning to study the differences between cooperative and competitive dialogue," Ferriter says. "Students are learning the responsibilities that participants in different types of conversations must fill. We've begun by examining cooperative dialogue by exploring Socratic Seminars. Through seminars, my students are learning to challenge one another's thinking in positive ways."


"Constantly question your children," Ferriter says. "Ask your children to explain their reasoning or to defend a position with logical thought. Each time you do this, you encourage your children to reconsider their original thoughts. They will refine and revise their initial positions while answering your challenge, which requires higher-level thinking. ... Best of all, you can incorporate challenging thought into everyday conversations. For example, instead of asking, 'How was your day?' you could ask, 'What was the most important piece of information that you learned today? Why?' "

WEB SITE -- "Each week, a different 'Speak Out' question is posted on their home page," Ferriter says. "These ... can help to start powerful conversations in your home every week."

If you're a teacher who's interested in sharing what your class is doing, contact education editor Roger van der Horst at (919) 829-4558 or

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