In May 2016, I went back to Canada after two years of teaching in India. I thought about the next year ahead with the students and started to feel the need to make the speaking and listening structure for the students more exciting and purposeful. I wanted to find a way to also link what we were reading back to our speaking lessons. Somewhere through countless hours of research I found a lesson on The Chat Show when browsing on YouTube. I knew this was a magic moment for me. I had finally come across what I required.
In short, The Chat Show is a speaking and listening strategy based around a central text. The teacher selects either a read aloud or shared reading text and prepares a speaking lesson around it. It is assumed that the text has already been read by the whole classroom. There are roles the students have to play in The Chat Show based on the characters in the text. In the elementary years, it is best to keep it simple and have three characters: host (i.e. the teacher), main character or the antagonist/protagonist (i.e. one student selected to come up to the front to be interviewed) and the audience/journalists (i.e. the rest of the class).
How To Implement It
Step 1:Begin by reading the text. Either on the same day or on a prior day to launching the Chat Show. I usually read the text one day and then do The Chat Show on another day that week because students love the anticipation. The teacher should begin The Chat Show by introducing one of the characters. For example, I read The Paper Bag Princess and wanted the students to take on the role of the dragon in the story. You can act out multiple roles, but I have only done one and the same goes for the teacher whose video inspired me to try this out.
Step 2:Get the students ready to act as the character. I took the students outside and spent a minute or two getting them to walk like, breathe fire like and even dance like a dragon. You can come up with all sorts of fun ideas to get them excited. If you have never tried The Chat Show in class then I really suggest trying out The Paper Bag Princess. She is a badass princess and the ending is just one that makes me smile every time.
Step 3:Once the students are excited about it, you can set out the norms and model anything you feel is relevant (usually teachers model how to properly frame questions). You can provide them with examples of how to ask a questions versus a non-example. Similarly, you can also provide a sentence and ask them how to frame it as a question. In The Paperbag Prince, you can write something like: The dragon takes the prince. Students should frame something like this: Why does the dragon take the prince? Then give them time to write out their questions in a notebook or cue cards.
Step 4: After doing this, start by calling one character (e.g. I asked one "dragon" to come up). He/she has to take questions from the class and provides answers. I usually ask the student (if they are comfortable - every student is different) to walk up to the stage and sit on the chair in the role of that character. How does this relate to reading? The students have to question and answer based on what is rooted in the text that we have read. In addition, some questions require critical thinking that is based on the text, but also on their own experiences or knowledge. This makes the whole process very interesting and purposeful. On another note, it is up to the teacher based on the time frame that is available and the flexibility of the text to decide how many students to call up to take on the role of the dragon. Other books that I recommend are Cinderella, The Berenstein Bears series, The Enormous Crocodile (or any Roald Dahl favourite), Little Red Riding Hood, and The Lion King. The first two times I tried out The Chat Show using texts that did not really fit the concept. My students and I found it dull and a waste of time. I went back to the drawing (or chalk) board and started over. I find the book makes a big difference and the success of The Chat Show relies quite a bit on a good fit book.