Graduation dialogue - cognitive level


A recent reflection on the conversation at school came out of an experience at the green table. Although we have only presented a short section of the graduation dialogue, even a small part of the conversational exchange served well to arrive at suggestions or tentative conclusions that could - by transferring them to school practice - strengthen the communicative dimension of mother tongue teaching, including the diagnosis of its outcomes. In the continuation of the reflection, we will try to refine the diagnostic function of the dialogue - we will focus on the dialogue as a way of detecting the level of cognitive development. It can be assumed that this refinement will lead to an improvement in the quality of communication, which is the culmination of formal education in our country. And since the path to improvement also leads through the analysis of problems, we will begin by dwelling at the beginning of this journey on the initial replicas that were heard in the graduation conversation:

"Let's go to Peter Jaros!"


"What did he write?"


"Mi- ...?"


"Mille- ...?"


"Millenial b-...?"


The call "Let's go to Peter Jaros!" is a charming metonymy and was intended as a challenge aimed at reproducing anything associated with the author of Millennial bee. Let's note right away: indirect naming in conversation is not advantageous - the prompt is meant to be direct, so as not to mislead, and it is meant to be factual, so as to be understandable - if the student does not understand or misunderstands the prompt, nothing diagnostically relevant can be observed, analyzed, or evaluated. Instructions in such a conversation can lead to a successful response when the student understands what is being asked of them, what they are supposed to express or accomplish with their communication in a particular context. The prompts and questions in a dialogue are a specific communicative burden that the teacher bears along with the responsibility for the quality of the dialogue as a whole. Challenges and questions should be seen as communicative tools that can be used to activate a certain cognitive area in the student so that it is expressed in speech. Speech can be perceived relatively accurately and thus can be observed as an expression of thinking and cognition. On this basis, the level of speech and what it serves - thinking and cognition - can then be determined. The student's silence at this stage cannot be seen as a signal of the competence that functional prompts and questions are intended to seek - rather, silence may be a signal that the prompt has merely confused the addressee.

The question "What did he write?" continues the problematic inquiry - searching through shallow memory traces - and the uncertain anticipation of the titles of works about which the student may know nothing. The section in question should not, therefore, be part of the assessment or evaluation for another reason: one can do well in high school without having encountered Peter Jaros in any way (in the substantive or figurative sense of the word) - there is no requirement associated with this writer captured in any valid document. Admittedly, a suitably chosen text from Millenial bee can be used functionally at a point during studies, and even a section from a film adaptation can be constructive in communication education. It's just that there was no coherent discussion of the passage in the graduation conversation. Nor can the student's second silence be seen as information about any of the competencies to be developed and then diagnosed by education of the mother tongue. Incidentally, a student might know Millenial Bee, but knowing the work is not the same as being able to talk about it solely on the basis of a non-reader's encounter with it, although one can already find witty suggestions for how to do this believably and thus convincingly. After the teacher's disappointment with the student's memory performance comes the "whispering" phase, which progresses in three stages. The result of the communication is the discovery of what the student does not remember - in this case, the title of a work that, while intriguing, does not - like hundreds of other excellent works - figure in the minimum literature knowledge base required from high school students.

Let us preliminarily conclude: the aim of the graduation dialogue was to find out the current state of functional literacy in the context of the student's communicative culture, it was to guide and lead him in this finding by targeted questions - it was to encourage him to functionally reproduce the read text, to explain the facts and relations in the text, to draw conclusions from the text or to evaluate the text from different perspectives or in different contexts. Let us recall that such goals cannot be achieved without proper preparation - a green table conversation should have a prepared communicative plan, such a conversation should not be dominated by uncontrolled reactions, unthinking prompts and boilerplate questions. For illustrative purposes, we present two excerpts with prompts and questions that can be used to mobilize the different cognitive dispositions of a student in a controlled, thoughtful, and differentiated manner, and then determine the degree of their development (we rank the prompts and questions from cognitively lower to higher).

Text A

It was Saturday, so they got up at half past three. Martin Pichanda lowered his legs steeper from the bed and woke his wife.

- Why are you rousing? - Ružena glared at him.

- Hush, my dear, sleep!"He shook her, reached out his hand, touched her bare shoulder lightly, and stood up.

He walked into the room to his sons and held them both by the shoulders. They were grunting, sniffling, frowning. They struggled to wake, reluctantly opening their glued eyes.

- Tomorrow you sleep in, lads!

When they finally got up, they fumbled sleepily in the darkness of the house, searching longingly for clothes, bumping into each other, stammering, thundering, muted cursing, and once or twice glancing sternly at each other as if they were about to grab their waists. Then they took a draught of water in the pit, and when they came out into the hall, they smiled at last at each other. Meanwhile the father had already harnessed the cows to the yoke, placed the rucksack with the rations, the saw and the axes on the cart, and was waiting with the whip, leaning on the yoke. Samo and Valent jumped on the wagon, father cracked the whip sonorously, and the cows moved. The hooped wheels drowned out the chirping of the birds. High overhead, above the houses and trees, the morning dawn flared.

They were cutting wood all day.

(Peter Jaroš: Millenial Bee, edited)

Text B

Spring has sprung. The sun's rays have warmed; the earth, warmed, gives off steam and fragrance. The air is slippery, as if caressed, and full of freshness. The grass in the meadows is pushing outwards, the willows and coleus are beginning to bud by the streams. Everything wakes to life and stirs to action. The people are taking to the spring work with alacrity. Over the winter everyone has been resting, the bedridden limbs are asking for fresh air in the fields. Faces are painted red in the sun, eyes take on a bright and bold glow.

Only at the Ťapák's there are guys standing around the yard and they can't shake off the winter flax. They can't decide whether or not to start ploughing today. The rolls are longing for the plough, - but it is not Friday, but Wednesday. At the Ťapák's they have never started work on any other day. Last Friday they couldn't plough, it was too wet, they had to save the poorly wintered farm, but if they waited until Friday, the ground would harden. So they should go today, but will it be a good thing, will it work out, if they start work on another day? Whether there will be blessings...?

(Božena Slančíková Timrava: The Ťapák Family)

Describe the content of texts A and B. In what time and space does the narrative develop in the texts? What events do the texts depict? What state of mind are the characters in? Which characters are active? Which characters are passive? How do the characters react? Quote from the text.

In which of the texts is the thinking of the characters shown? Quote from the text.

Find out if there is a description in any of the texts. What kind of description do you think it is?

Place the author of Text B in a literary and historical context. Indicate the social conditions in which the author lived and worked. Which authors were working at the time the author was writing? What method did the author's literary peers share with the author? What is the essence of this method?

Compare the common features of the author's prose with the prose of any of the authors of the period.

Discuss the prose from which the text B comes. To what extent did you enjoy reading this prose? What interested you the most while reading it?

Focus your attention on the nature of the characters in text B. How has the author characterized these characters? Make an analysis of the characterization in the text.

What do you think the smile of the characters in text A suggests?

To what extent do you agree that texts A and B depict the same types of characters? In what ways do these characters differ? Which of the excerpts is an example of character typification? Demonstrate the essence of it with an example.

Explain the connection between the description of the setting and the characteristics of the characters in Text B. Use Text B to explain the meaning of contrast.

Edit any part of text A or B to change the type of narrator. How do you do this?

Make a brief analysis of the relationships between the characters in Text A and compare them with examples of interpersonal relationships you have encountered. Draw a conclusion from your findings. Justify it, argue it.

Follow up text A with your own text. Which style do you choose? (6 - 8 sentences)

Follow up text A with your own description. What kind of description will you choose? (6 - 8 sentences)

Describe a likely setting in which the action in text A might take place. What kind of description would you choose? Place the description appropriately in the text (not before or after the text) (4-6 sentences).

The dialogue needs to be brought back to seriousness. Not just the graduation one. One forward-looking solution is that there will be a greater strengthening of the communication skills of teachers, and thus students. In the professional portfolio of a person who teaches and will teach in the 21st century, a well-developed capacity for dialogue in various functions and at several levels is crucial. To begin with, it is quite sufficient for current and future teachers to master the teaching and diagnostic conversation, at least at two adjacent levels. If they could do this, they could more effectively assist students in cognitive development - in building deeper knowledge as well as in generating more developed ideas.

All rights reserved EDUAWEN EUROPE, Ltd.

Karel Dvořák PhD. – DaCoSiDe expert tasked with the creation of A2/B1-level methodological guidelines and certification tools


JAROŠ, Peter. 2014. Tisícročná včela. Bratislava : SIGNUM. 501 p. ISBN 978-80-970958-6-4

TIMRAVA, Božena Slančíková. 2005. Za koho ísť a iné prózy. Bratislava : Perfekt. 300 p. ISBN 80-8046-319-0

VYGOTSKY, Lev Semyonovich. 1979. Mind In Society. The Development Of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge : Harvard University Press. 159 p. ISBN 0-674-57628-4

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