I was recently sitting in one of my sixth grade guided reading groups when one of the students in it asked, "What are those line thingys called that the author keeps using?"
I hesitated before replying because the words "hyphen" and "dash" kept coming to my mind, but to be completely honest, I had no idea which was which. So we stopped and decided to look it up. This is what we discovered:
The reason that I like teaching within a flexible framework of teaching, like Literacy Collaborative, is because learning becomes authentic. Instead of drilling into my whole group of students what a dash and a hyphen are, something that I've never known my whole life but probably have been taught at some point, I was able to ask students questions like:
*What do you notice about when an author uses a dash?
*What do you notice about when an author uses a hyphen?
*What is the author's purpose in using a dash/hyphen?
*How does understanding this punctuation make the book easier to understand?
*How could you use what you now know about the dash and the hyphen in your own writing?
This particular guided reading group and I had an awesome conversation about this, and it is amazing what students notice and how they categorize information within their brains. I am confident to say that they now not only know what a dash and a hyphen are and the author's purpose in using these particular types of punctuation, but they also are noticing and analyzing the author's purpose in using other types of punctuation such as commas, parentheses, italics, and end-of-the-sentence punctuation.
As teachers, we have to make possibly hundreds of mini teaching decisions every day of where to take the whole class next, where to take a small group of students such as my guided reading group, and where to take individual students. The more I continue to teach using the Literacy Collaborative framework, the more I realize that it's not necessarily about having all the answers or being the expert teacher. It's about how you allow students to interact with one another, how you talk to students, and the atmosphere for learning you have set up.