The four Chalk Talk questions used throughout the unit were:
1) How do different cultures use the Earth’s resources (plants, trees, water, oil, soil)?
2) How do different cultures view animals? (pets, food, work)?
3) In what ways does religion play a part in a culture’s beliefs and customs?
4) How are a culture’s customs and beliefs shown in their stories, art and music?
Our first round of chalk talk allowed students to activate their schema by simply answering these four questions in general. Students first silently went around the tables and wrote responses to each question on the chart paper.
After the silent thinking, students went around in table groups to orally discuss the responses. This allowed all students to take part in discussions.
One of the most insightful discoveries students made during the oral discussion was that the four questions are not separate questions at all. To the contrary, they are interrelated. Students noticed that an answer to the animal question could fit with the religion, earth's resources, and art questions.
Our second round of chalk talk posed the same four questions as they relate to the novels students were reading. Groups now consisted of students reading the same novel. The same routine was used (silent then oral discussion). This allowed all readers of a novel to contribute examples in the text for each question. These open, guiding questions made for rich discussion and discovery in the text without driving students to explicit answers. Chalk talk lends itself to guiding a discussion without limitations, allowing each student to respond with their own thinking. The novel-based responses to the chalk talk questions opened the door for the next phase of our unit: In what ways do readers learn about a culture from both fiction and nonfiction?