Teachers Connect
Jul 15, 2014

VTS Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is a means of acknowledging that an idea has been heard and, in the repetition, that it has value.  It allows everyone to hear a comment restated with different vocabulary, and is a suitable moment for the facilitator to make connections between student comments.

Although the use of paraphrasing may present a challenge initially what do you believe will be gained in your classroom or setting by using these questions?  What will be some personal challenges in using paraphrasing?

31 Responses to VTS Paraphrasing

  1. Melba Lucas says:

    Paraphrasing is something that I really need to practice because I feel that with my first experiment with VTS & Q & R in the gallery i had to be careful that I did not prompt ithe students. I have a feeling that if I start to feel more confident in the usage of paraphrasing I will be able to expand the vocabulary of my stuydents.

  2. Suzanne says:

    I think the biggest challenge for me moving forward with VTS and the paraphrasing technique is time. I have taught studio art as a busy always moving hands -on affair for many years. Slowing down is going to take some serious focus and deliberate practice. The benefit is so huge I really really feel that allowing students to discover a piece of art THEMSELVES will make such a difference in my curriculum. Plus, I think VTS time will allow me to get to know my students better. Sometimes as specials teachers we do not have time to really know all 1,200 of our students. It is going to take time away from studio time but I think with time and practice I will find how to incorporate it into my classes.

    • Laurie McLaughlin says:

      Today it was suggested that we art teachers who see our students for 30 or 45 min a week if we’re lucky, try to collaborate with a classroom teacher so that some of the VTS conversations occur in the classroom before they come to the art room. At first I loved this idea, but also now realize that we would miss out on those windows into who our students are by delegating those conversations to others.

  3. Gina says:

    I think it is challenging to remain neutral while reflecting the thoughts. However, I think it is very powerful to validate and encourage this type of discourse. It can be challenging, especially in this testing-frenzied culture, for us as teachers to let go and really step outside of our traditional role. Allowing the students to be the experts can feel contradictory to us, but really it allows us to understand our students better. I think using this strategy will help me understand my students’ perspectives and their patterns of thinking much more deeply.

    • Jamayca says:

      I agree with you on both points Gina. When we first practiced VTS my gut reaction was “How will I let go?” Facilitating a discussion is one thing but giving what I am going to describe as “free range” is another. I agree this will let us understand our students better and I am hopeful will help me to understand myself better as a teacher. That being said I am excited to try this method out with my students. As you describe the neutrality will be a big challenge, as well as not redirecting, but bring it on! We can only get better if we try it.

  4. Leigha says:

    I initially felt like the students should be paying attention to what everyone says the first time, but the points that were made during discussion today changed my mind. I was taught a long time ago that you shouldn’t repeat what the students say, so this definitely challenges what I initially thought. When we were working in the galleries today I found that it was reassuring to hear what I said paraphrased back to the group. It gave me a sense that what I was saying was important and worth restating. I also felt like the facilitator was listening more to me when what I said was paraphrased. I think that students would like this as well because they are looking for acceptance in many ways in their lives. Even though they didn’t get it “right” they are still important to what is being discussed. I think that it will be a challenge for me to break that pre-conceived notion of repetition when holding VTS discussions. I also think that I will have difficulties stepping away and just facilitating.

  5. Cathleen says:

    Thinking back to Jonathan’s comment yesterday about the need to give students a level of comfort and trust, I think that VTS Paraphrasing could be a huge asset. Acknowledging a student’s observations in a positive way encourages them to continue to explore not only in observation but in their own creations. Children love to have someone listen carefully to them and the VTS Paraphrasing shows that you did focus and did hear them. In addition, reiterating their ideas with the addition of artistic vocabulary and some tightening of their ideas will hopefully give them more confidence in the validity of their insights.

    Besides the need to practice, practice, practice so that I can feel comfortable guiding the discussion, I will need to be very careful not to appear to find more validity in one observation than in another. I can already tell that it will be exciting to hear from the students and when they see something that I haven’t seen before it will be tempting to react in an non-independent facilitator manner. Until I get used to the idea, I may follow Deborah’s advice “if you have to say something, make sure to say it to all”

  6. Tasara says:

    It will be challenging to paraphrase while remaining neutral. I’m so used to validating with mindless comments like “great” and “excellent” that it is a shift to see paraphrasing–with the emphasis on NOT changing or adding any information–as validation. It makes me wonder how students take this “mindless” praise that I’m throwing at them too (do I really mean it?)

  7. Laurie McLaughlin says:

    I am hoping that paraphrasing will validate my student’s ideas and increase their vocabulary and means of expressing themselves as artists, just as hearing their fellow students vocalizing more advanced thoughts and observations challenges the whole group. Today, however, I found paraphrasing to be the most challenging aspect of VTS for me… I am assuming as I get comfortable using VTS, that I will become more adept at paraphrasing:)

  8. darrell williams says:

    Today I had a chance to practice VTS coaching strategies in the art gallery, I found that observing real painted images has its benefits which allowed me to see artwork close up. This gave me a more personal experience and authentic approach to the VTS model. Restating what children say is not as challenging as restating what adults articulate when expressing their interpretations of art. What I find most challenging, is the ability to redirect off task behavior while engaging students in VTS sessions. Paraphrasing what children say will help to develop their vocabulary and prompt them for higher-level thinking. I’m sure the challenges will be there along with many more, but I’m looking forward to using this model this school year.
    As teachers we find a way to communicate, differentiate and educate.

  9. Amy says:

    The use of paraphrasing demonstrated today by our instructors and the willingness of our peers to ‘go first’ was so encouraging! I enjoyed listening to their different techniques, such as:
    -What I’m hearing is…
    -It makes you wonder…
    -So, the artist pulled you in the painting…
    -Thinking of the elements of art you see…
    These simple techniques of reflecting thoughts inspire me to give it a try!

    • Leigha says:

      These are good starters on how to paraphrase the information, I will have to add some of them to the little cheat sheet when I am practicing. Thanks!

    • Jamayca says:

      I love the phrase “so the artist pulled you into the painting”! I am going to try to remember to use it in my VTS practice.

  10. Yanitza says:

    I agree with Suzanne that time will be a challenge but embracing the idea that VTS can be a tool makes it worthwhile 🙂 Due to its accessibility and relative ease to implement, I think that it will take a few weeks of setting up routines in the art classroom so the students begin to familiarize with these questions. Yet, I’m excited to see how it progresses throughout the school year.

  11. Emily says:

    I’m concerned about paraphrasing because, at times, I feel like a robot repeating in other words. I’m wondering, is there an appropriate time to NOT paraphrase? I feel as though some of my students articulate themselves well enough to not need paraphrasing and if I do paraphrase what they said, then I feel like a parrot but if I don’t, then I run the risk of insulting the students who definitely do need paraphrasing.

    So basically what I think I’m saying (to paraphrase myself) is, how can you avoid feeling like a parrot when paraphrasing everything each kid says one at a time?

    Thanks!

  12. Carolyn says:

    I also facilitated VTS today and the idea of paraphrasing not only helped me as a teacher think about alternative vocabulary to use when restating students’ observations but it also helped me process and make more connections to my peers’ thoughts when the facilitators paraphrased the observations. I struggled with taking the “me” out of the process because I am so used to not only praising students’ participation and observations but also elaborating off of their comments to guide the discussion. I’m excited that this VTS allows the students to really take charge of the discussion and find meaning in artworks through their own experiences.

  13. Susan Little says:

    I feel that we all are feeling challenged by the task of paraphrasing, adding or clarifying vocabulary, but not layering our teacher interpretation on what students say. This is a whole new ballgame (yes, I am watching the Allstar Game) in encouraging student discourse. The best part of this is we are constantly perfecting our craft. Can’t wait to learn more and share it with my staff..

  14. Jonathan says:

    I think that by paraphrasing the students comments and listening to them speak about art really allows the student to have a sense of ownership in the classroom. Having their thoughts repeated shows the student that you are both hearing and listening to what they have to say. It shows them what they have to say is important. Having the students state what makes them say that reminds me of the ideas of Blooms Taxonomy and digging deeper for higher level thoughts with higher level questioning words. As for me, I think some personal challenges with the paraphrasing will be the making sure that I’m bringing in some new vocabulary and not just restating the comment. I found myself trying to mentally restate some my group mates thoughts as if I were the facilitator when I was listening….not going to be easy but practice will help.

  15. Jonathan says:

    I think that by paraphrasing the students comments and listening to them speak about art really allows the student to have a sense of ownership in the classroom. Having their thoughts repeated shows the student that you are both hearing and listening to what they have to say. It shows them what they have to say is important. Having the students state what makes them say that reminds me of the ideas of Blooms Taxonomy and digging deeper for higher level thoughts with higher level questioning words. As for me, I think some personal challenges with the paraphrasing will be the making sure that I’m bringing in some new vocabulary and not just restating the comment. I found myself trying to mentally restate some my group mates thoughts as if I were the facilitator when I was listening….not going to be easy but practice will help.

  16. Catherine Falknor says:

    I enjoy paraphrasing, especially in my ESOL classroom. My students need so much oral practice, and paraphrasing will help them hear their words in an English speaker’s voice. It’s also an opportunity to refine (and correct) their words and meaning so that the others can more easily understand and imitate them.
    I do believe I will always have to model a discussion before asking them to take it on. The way the VTS script is written seems to invite all students to discover as much as they’re able to write and/or say. Through conversations and discovery/pinpointing “evidence,” students have another opportunity to try on academic discussion, and with paraphrasing, learn to use academic and technical vocabulary, as well as find the delight in conversing about art.

  17. maureen mcdonough berard says:

    One of the benefits of paraphrasing is you are creating that safe space and validation. How comforting it is to anyone to think that they have been heard and that someone is listening. I try to use this technique when they then critique each other’s work. My constant challenge is that I must LISTEN – not always teach a fact. We get so used to dispensing knowledge – when tend to overlook the fact that the students have their own knowledge. l always have to stop and meet the student where they are- hear what they are saying. Another big obstacle is to remain the same in vocal tone to all comments.

  18. Mary Ellen Fink says:

    I agree with several people in the class that complimenting students with their comments has become automatic. Our administrators also expect this type of constant affirmation when we are being observed,,as well. I have seen the benefits of paraphrasing in the classroom—especially with students who are not always a part of the “in group” or those who are youngest or middles in their family. One student in particular very quietly glowed when his words were paraphrased. It gave what he said validity, but it didn’t exactly single him out because he wasn’t the only person’s responses being paraphrased. There are times though when it is certainly easier to move along the lesson without paraphrasing. Time, time time! I am probably more nervous about trying the VTS facilitating with this group than my own students—really have to concentrate on it!

  19. Eileen says:

    I believe that paraphrasing each student allows you, the teacher, to listen to each child carefully. Many times I am hearing, but not really listening, because I am anticipating what I want the children to get from the lesson. How is that working for you Eileen? It’s not. Some old habits are worth breaking.

    By using the VTS approach, everyone benefits. It allows me to truly give the attention to each student’s thought process. They deserve that. Paraphrasing will be difficult for me, but the results will be worth it.

  20. Julia says:

    Too often I tend to give off signs or facial expressions showing whether or not I agree with a student. I know that I have a hard time hiding what I think – I think that will be the biggest challenge for me.

    If I can use more often the VTS form of questions I think the girls will be receptive enough to not only respond but replicate them in French class since this allows for fairness and criticism-free comments. Ultimately they want to be fair and this is a technique for how to go about this.

  21. Gina says:

    I just wanted to add another thought I had while we were doing VTS today…

    Many of us are “sparked” by something a peer says while in process. I will definitely have to consider some structures that will work to support active and meaningful participation. I know Yanitza also mentioned this the other day and I continue to mull it over… I’m not a huge fan of talking tokens, and I wonder how long it would take before students could do this more independently.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    My biggest challenge for paraphrasing will be to balance both leaving time for accurately validating comments with the need of brevity to fit into short class period.

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