The Difficult Conversation That Never Was

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The Difficult Conversation That Never Was

Created by

Mimi Fuchs



The difficult conversation that never took place in A Summer's Reading by Bernard Melamud

"Just think kids, if this difficult conversation DID take place, and Cattanzara was adept at negotiations, chances are there wouldn't be a story for you to learn.”

Learning, defining, understanding the importance of inquiry & acknowledgment (as opposed to  the use of advocacy) in a difficult conversation / conflict). The conflict between George and Mr. Cattanzara in the story A Summer's Reading.  We will discuss the climax of the story "Don't do what I did" and talk about it in terms of inquiry/acknowledgment/advocacy. We will role play a conflict. The students will try to master the skill of making inquiries and acknowledging in a difficult conversation instead of advocating. The difficult conversation they will be acting out is the conversation between Mr Cattanzara and George about why George isn't reading the books and how to get him reading so as to further his education. The role play involves 3 students. A listener, a talker (inquiring, acknowledging) and an observer.


Learning Objectives

1 - The negotiation skills the students will learn about and apply in the role-play conflict are:
      Inquiry & Acknowledgment

The students will learn that we all overuse advocacy in a difficult conversation / conflict

2 - The conflict between Mr Cattanzara and George.

We will define their interests and their positions in the story.
Interests/Position are negotiation concepts that have been learned
We will discuss why difficult conversations don't take place even though they are in  everyone's
3 - English Vocabulary that has to do with inquiry and acknowledgment.


Lead-in / Preparation

1 - The children must have read and understood the story A Summer's Reading. They must
know the plot.

2 - The interest/position and Ladder of Inference concepts must be taught beforehand.

3 - Making sure the kids understand and acquiring the vocabulary needed to use sentence stems
for inquiry and acknowledgment in  a difficult conversation. (see appendix 1 for the sentence
stems) .

4 - Discussing and coming up with the framework of the difficult conversation between
George and Mr Cattanzara
a- Why did Mr Cattanzara just advocate in the story
b- Why didn't George want to discuss with anyone why he was doing what he was doing.


Estimated Class-Time Required

1 double period. (90 minutes)


Description of Activities

1 - Class will have worked in pairs trying out the new sentence stems found in Appendix 1  so they know the vocabulary necessary for the role playing

2 - Break-up class into 8 groups of 4.
Listener - George
Talker     -  Mr Cattenzara -
He needs to empathize with the listener
-   He needs to inquire and acknowledge.  No advocacy.

Observer  A

Observer B

Observer A & B
1- will buzz if  they hear Mr Cattenzara use advocacy instead of inquiry and acknowledgment
2- will write down the number of times inquiry is used / correct vocabulary is used
3- will write down the number of times acknowledgment is used / correct vocabulary is used


Key Vocabulary / Phrases

The sentence stems found in Appendix 1 (Pathways stem sentences for inquiry/ acknowledgment and advocacy) will be emphasized and practiced.



The children will be role modeling their conflict 2 -4 times.
The teacher will walk around and see if the number of times inquiry / acknowledgment is used in their role play increases.



The students can write up the same role play, hopefully an improved version, at home, after practicing 2-3 times in class with inquiry and .acknowledgment.

They can underline the use of the correct stem sentences.



This activity is one where I intend to introduce and immediately apply negotiation concepts in real time role playing.  The students’ reflection would be part of their written work.  Written work, takes more time, allows for reflection and correction, and internalization of the necessary vocabulary and concepts.



Attached Files

The Difficult Conversation That Never Was.pdfDownload