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Content-Area Conversations

  • Title:Content-Area Conversations: How to Plan Discussion-Based Lessons for Diverse Language Learners
  • Author:Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, Carol Rothenberg, Shirley Brice Heath
  • Publication Date:2008
  • Grade Level:K-12
  • ISBN:9781416607373
  • Publisher:ASCD

Time pressures, standards-driven curricula, and rising populations of students who are struggling with English can make it hard to include discussions in your teaching, yet there are more good reasons than ever to use academic discourse to promote learning. Read this book to find out why and how discussion-based lessons help students—especially English language learners—to process and remember information, develop higher-order thinking, and advance their literacy skills.

The authors introduce you to a four-component framework for discussion-based lessons and present strategies and guidelines on such issues as:

  • When talk facilitates learning and when it doesn't.
  • The four types of talk that can guide instructional routines.
  • How to vary academic discourse in specific subjects and across the content areas.
  • Sample questions for planning discussion-based lessons.
  • Flexible seating arrangements, visual supports, and community-building strategies that promote talking.
  • Signal words and sentence frames that promote discussion.
  • Ways to manage noise and time in the discussion-heavy classroom.
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Author Bio

Douglas Fisher is professor of language and literacy education in the Department of Teacher Education at San Diego State University and a classroom teacher at Health Sciences High & Middle College. He is the recipient of an International Reading Association Celebrate Literacy Award, the Farmer Award for excellence in writing from the National Council of Teachers of English, as well as a Christa McAuliffe Award for excellence in teacher education. He has published numerous articles on reading and literacy, differentiated instruction, and curriculum design, as well as books, such as Creating Literacy-rich Schools for Adolescents (with Gay Ivey), Checking for Understanding (with Nancy Frey), Better Learning Through Structured Teaching (with Nancy Frey) and Content-area Conversations (with Carol Rothenberg), Text Complexity (2/e) (with Nancy Frey) and Text-Dependent Questions, Grades 6-12 and Grades K-5 (with Nancy Frey, Heather Anderson, Marisol Thayre).

Nancy Frey, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Literacy in the School of Teacher Education at San Diego State University. She is a recipient of the Christa McAuliffe award for excellence in teacher education from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. She has co-authored several books on literacy such as Teaching Visual Literacy and Checking for Understanding (with Douglas Fisher), Text Complexity (2/e) (with Doug Fisher) and Text-Dependent Questions, Grades 6-12 and Grades K-5 (with Dou Fisher, Heather Anderson, Marisol Thayre).


She was a co-recipient (with Doug Fisher) of NCTE’s 2004 Kate and Paul Farmer award for outstanding writing for their article, “Using Graphic Novels, Anime, and The Internet In an Urban High School,” published in The English Journal. She teaches a variety of courses in elementary and secondary literacy in content area instruction and supporting students with diverse learning needs.

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