I was asked at a parent orientation meeting, "How many children do you have in your first grade class?" I replied, "Thirty-two children."
Another parent commented, "When I was in school we had over 40 kids in my class."
My answer was, "Any teacher can handle 40 children. That isn't the problem. The problem is that very individual child wants a nice long sharing, talking turn. If each child took a two-minute turn, it would take over an hour for 32 children to talk."
A third parent asked, "Why is sharing so important?"
I explained, "Some educator divided language arts into four divisions or related activities. They are listening, speaking, writing, and reading. Each one is equally dependent on all the other four. They are just as interrelated as any plant or animal on the food chain."
"But why spend so much time sharing?" asked another parent.
"When your child tells about his new pair of shoes or mittens, or a trip he has been on, he is bridging the road between home and school. And we take plenty of school time for each child to speak in front of the group."
One parent commented, "My child listens to television all the time. Listening is no problem for him."
"I think television makes listening kind of haphazard," I said. "A child tunes in what he wants to hear. He tunes a lot out. In school he has to listen in concentrated doses with a group situation."
I continued, "Besides listening to teacher, the children have to learn to listen to each other. This a giant step in listening."
A parent asked, "Is this the afternoon talking time?"
"Yes, this is also discussion time. Sometimes I ask the group a question like, "What did you do at home during this last vacation?'"
I tell the children, "Everyone will get a talking turn, and everyone must listen to everyone else."
I explained to the parents, "Sometimes after a child has told his news, he starts talking to his neighbor, or fooling around. To prevent this I ask that everyone look at the speaker. This helps the children concentrate on what is being told. At the beginning of the sharing period most everyone remembers, but toward the end, some children get restless. a teacher will figure out which children need to wait to talk. the most eager children seem to be the ones who just want to talk and not listen to everyone else.
"What do you do with children who are hesitant about talking to the group?" a parent asked.
"I don't invite shyer children, to talk first, because if one child holds back, other children will follow that pattern. By waiting and not forcing, these shyer children will eventually want to tell their news and views."
I added, "By speaking before a group, your child's speaking skills improve. He can think of his feet. He will also learn how to hold the interest of the group, so everyone will want to hear what he says. Listening skills have to be practiced so they improve. when a speaker gets good listeners everyone is participating."