Monday, February 18, 2013

Engaging Students through Discussion
We want to focus on keeping students engaged throughout class and meaningful discussion helps to accomplish this but how do you ensure that all students are a part of the discussion? These are just a few examples of things I have tried to keep all students in the class engaged in a discussion.

“Knights of the Round Table”
At the beginning of the block each student receives a note card with a shape, a color, and a number. They then need to come up with five-six discussion questions on the topic (this works well with novels, poems, and short stories but I am sure you could use it in other disciplines besides English). We also discuss that they need to be questions that apply, analyze, or evaluate. The students are then grouped three different times where they discuss the questions they came up with on their note card.

The student asks the question and then they progress around the table sharing their responses. The catch is they can’t just agree with what one of their peers said, they must add to the discussion. The student who asks the question must also answer the question. This usually ensures they will ask something worth discussing in their minds. The next student will then ask their question and it follows the pattern of before until each student has had their question discussed.

Although the student will only use three questions having five-six prepared allows for plenty of other options to ask if someone steals their question or there are duplicate questions.

After one round of discussion we will come together as a class and share insights that each group discovered before rotating to our next Knights of the Round Table. The different shapes, colors, and numbers will mix up the students so most will not be with the same person for each discussion. Below is a short example of some students discussing 1984.

3 to 5:
Have a list of the students in your class with you throughout the block and check off when they participate. You have questions, quotes, ideas, points, etc.  prepared to begin the discussion and then they will take over. Each student will need to chime in three to five times during the discussion.  I will tell students when we are doing this activity and they actually seem to enjoy it. 

I find it is helpful because everyone has to participate at least three times and those students who have a tendency to dominate the conversation have to limit their input (you may only speak up five times maximum) adding variety to the responses.

It tends to make discussions more meaningful as students are careful about what they share and when they speak up. It is also a great way to ensure they are listening and learning from one another as their comments cannot be repeat ideas but can be responses to a peer’s participation. I’ve learned a lot from the students through these discussions.

Try it and see what you can learn…

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