Sometimes, you just can’t appreciate the potential of a brain-friendly strategy until you try it. Today, I tried the “Oprah Winfrey” interview to help students think more critically about a story we read. I was honestly surprised at its effectiveness.
The Oprah Winfrey interview is used to increase comprehension and foster literate conversations. Its effectiveness is phenomenal. Today after reading a story, I set several chairs in a row in front of the class. “Oprah” sits in the first chair (that is the teacher initially). The characters to be interviewed sit in the other chairs. Our story this week was Dear Juno. Dear Juno is about a boy who gets a letter from his grandmother in Korea. He figures out what the letter says by looking for clues in pictures. For our interview, I needed a Juno, a mother and father, and a grandmother. I asked for volunteers to represent characters in the story, reminding them they’d need to be “in character”.
Once we were all settled, I began by asking several general questions. I asked my “Juno” how he knew the letter was to him, how he knew who the letter was from, and how he felt when he saw it. Next, I asked the “grandmother” and “parents” several questions, ending with questions that required students to make inferences and draw conclusions. Finally, I let the “audience” ask questions. They were remarkably well thought out. It was clear comprehension was increasing as students who had not been able to participate became fluent in the story. They were highly engaged. The interview only lasted about five minutes. It was a very effective five minutes.
This technique can be adjusted for any grade level. I highly recommend this brain-friendly strategy. I plan on using it regularly in my classroom.