Classroom Discussion Strategies

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In my student teaching placement, I have tried small group discussion strategies. Last week, students independently read an article on measuring the health of the economy and then filled out a KWL chart together in groups of 3, or 4. (In the future, I will have students complete the K and L columns prior to the reading.) We then had each group select a representative to share a statement from each column of the chart. It led to an interesting class-wide investigative discussion on what people were wondering about with respect to GDP. The wondering of what county has the highest GDP, for example, led us into discussing country ranking of GDP and comparing that to a real GDP per capita ranking. The group went on the research alternative measure of GDP in their small groups and share with class some of the alternative indicators that some economists think are worthwhile in terms of understanding economic well-being.

Another discussion strategy that I have tried is Converstations, where students had an opportunity to post and discuss what they had learned and what they were still wondering with respect to the unit learning targets. This is a great activity to provide students with an opportunity to review and discuss material prior to a unit test. I had six posters located around the room and had students travel to the next station with the whole group. Once groups made it through the entire rotation, we came together as a class to review each poster topic for clarification. I like Jennifer Gonzales’s suggestion to have some students stay behind at the station to share with the next group what has been previously covered and discussed. Also, in my activity, I had about 6 students at each station. I think it would have worked better with less students in each group. There were a few off-task students and some who traveled on the periphery. Having more poster stations allowing for smaller groups is another adjustment I would make for a similar future activity.

What I’d like to try mid-unit or prior to a unit test is Send-a-Problem. Students will work in small groups of three and each given a flashcard to create a unit derived question for the group. The small group will come to a consensus on the appropriate question and answer for each flashcard in the group. The small groups will pass on the group of flashcards to another small group and receive a new set of questions from another team. Each set of review questions will rotate through each group. This seems like a fun, active, engaging way to spend 15 minutes on unit review.

I also like the Note to A Friend concept: giving students an opportunity to complete a 5-10 quick write at the end of a lesson. This is great way to utilize the last 5-10 minutes of class to reinforce content. I might also expand the concept to include sketching/cartooning as an option for sharing learning with a friend.

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