For the last few class sessions, our classes were learning about the atrocities of the trenches of WWI. After someone asked the question, “Why would anyone choose to enter this war?” I used the post-it note discussion techniques and asked students to think of one or two reasons why a person would willfully enter into WWI, and then put it on the board. After the students had placed their answers on the board, I asked them to categorize them into over-arching categories and broke into a group discussion about if the reasons for entering WWI were similar to why people join the military or military conflicts today.
I learned that students are more likely to participate in a discussion if they can do so by writing something down, instead of talking out loud. Often these responses are a lot more complex than the answers I’ve heard in large-group discussions. Additionally, my students, even if they’ve already written their answer down, do not like saying it out loud or participating in a larger discussion. I’ve found that the best way to avoid this silence is to warn them that I will be randomly selecting them to participate by using the “popsicle stick” method. Using this method, I was able to get them to make more connections and think about the ways they chose to categorize the post-it notes more in-depth. I still need to figure out the best way to get the students to really talk to each other instead of just talking to me, but hopefully that will come as we continue to use more strategies for discussion.