Facilitating classroom conversations?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Peregrin5, Jun 18, 2014.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jun 18, 2014

    I'm restructuring the way I do labs next year to make them more efficient and effective, and part of my new structure is to have time specifically for sharing ideas with group mates and coming to a consensus.

    My worry though, (probably a common one) are students who don't participate in the discussion and sit back while allowing two or three very talkative ones do the entire discussion, or even worse, everyone being so shy that no one discusses.

    I tried taking a class called "Common Core Classroom Conversations" but I just fell out of it and couldn't find much that was useful right off the bat (just a lot of research about how conversations can be helpful to learning, which I already know). What I need are some tips for facilitating classroom conversations, some kind of classroom/grading structure for doing conversations in the classroom, expectations, etc.

    If you do a lot of successful discussions in your classroom (that are student-led within groups of 3-4) how do you do it? How do you manage it? etc.
     
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  3. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    I'm intrigued by the socratic method inner/outer circle discussion, a.k.a. fishbowl discussion. I searched online but couldn't find a simple explanation to recommend, but you'll find plenty on it if you search google. I haven't tried it since I've been teaching young kids recently, but it sounds like a good way of keeping everyone involved.
     
  4. Rox

    Rox Cohort

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    I have discussions on Edmodo that enable my shy students to participate. We are a 1:1 iPad program though. Perhaps students can do it while at home/during computer lab time? Do you assign duties to students in groups (one student is the reporter, one student is the secretary, etc.)?
     
  5. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I've heard of and used (not with much success) the socratic method. But I'm looking more for something to be used within groups of 3 or 4 rather than a whole class discussion.
     
  6. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I tried assigning jobs, but I found that it really doesn't work for me, and as some mentioned on this forum, the jobs are never equal in work needing to be done, they seem to disjoint the conversation more than allowing it to naturally flow, and many times, students are stuck in jobs that they cannot perform well in.

    I'd like methods that move away from jobs and lead more towards just facilitating natural discussion amongst small groups where everyone has something to add as they feel comfortable.
     
  7. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    What about using a model for literature circles where each student in a group has a role?
     
  8. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I took a similar class: Constructive Classroom Conversations (or something like that). How have you taught it before? It must be modeled and students need to know the different ways to respond...asking questions, clarifying, adding on, etc. I would start by training them to discuss with partners so they establish an understanding of how to dialogue. From there I would stem out to three then four students discussions.
     
  9. live

    live Companion

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    This is definitely a skill that needs to be explicitly taught, practiced, modeled.

    Sometimes students don't participate in these conversations because they're afraid that what they say will be scrutinized or unheard. Sometimes they just don't know how.

    What about a script of some kind to start? Or sentence starters? Then release them to more free-thinking as they get the hang of it and build good conversational habits. Start with things they can successfully discuss, then go on to other more difficult topics.

    You could also teach the different ways to ask a question or respond to what people say. And also...how NOT to respond.
     
  10. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    Model, model, model. Make an anchor chart with sentence stems for them to finish (I think blank happened because blank. I'm not sure about blank. Etc.). The first few times, have them discuss non academic stuff so they build relationships and feel comfortable discussing. When you move on to the first lab, debrief after and tell them specific things you heard them say that you liked. Finally, after a discussion, have a written assignment (could just be one question), that everybody answers individually based on their group discussion. Like any other classroom routine, it takes modeling and practice!
     
  11. ScienceEd

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    if you have technology access then you could have them post thoughts on padlet or you can have them take turns typing up discussion points.

    http://padlet.com/wall/g2l0jymj5hnh
     
  12. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

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  13. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I have sentence starter cards for science that I made last year. I don't think I used them effectively. I might turn them into a hand-out this year, because the random draw and speak nature of their cards didn't always fit the situation at hand.
     
  14. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Okay. What if they just don't want to respond though? i.e. They're just too shy, or they prefer to simply not talk because they don't like to be seen participating (I had one student last year who would literally do nothing).

    How can I structure this so they have compelling interest to discuss?
     
  15. live

    live Companion

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    Jun 19, 2014

    This part is hard for me, too. To make conversations work, the students need to buy into it. It needs to be something that is important to them. There needs to be some kind of objective or purpose that drives the discussion.

    I usually try to do this a couple of ways (not at all inclusive by any means):

    1. They can connect it to their lives by coming up with problems they can solve with their information, why it's important, how it can be solved, and so on. Have them create something. Use examples for things that would interest non-participators to get them thinking: how does (insert concept here) effect kicking a soccer ball, playing fetch with your dog, driving a go-cart, the growth of corn? Whatever it is.

    2. My students really got engaged through the power of disagreement (we had a few sessions where all we did was disagree and learn to disagree). Students can prepare information for a debate, or come up with arguments AGAINST or disproving their own information.

    I think it's important to align these conversations to what they'd probably be like in the real world: using information to solve problems. It allows itself for more natural discussion (and they still need to review their information to do this effectively). It's hard, because as teachers, we need to make it cooler to participate than to sit out.

    Also, maybe train a few students to be a facilitator or mediator? I don't use jobs either, but I sometimes ask my more mature students to make sure all students are included in the discussion. You could also train students on what to say and do if someone is hesitating to participate (for example: Jane, do you agree that ____________? What makes you think that?). People definitely need to learn how to include others in conversation. For the shy kids, all it might take is an interested ear and a little bit of affirmation to get them comfortable.
     
  16. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Yeah. I try my best to always connect the curriculum to their lives, but in the discussions I want them to have, I usually want them to share explanations of phenomenon that have just happened or they just observed. It's hard to have them connect Oobleck to their daily lives and then explain why it feels the way it does or why discussing why it might be a solid or a liquid is extremely compelling for them. In some cases it's easier, but I have to work by the assumption that it may not always be possible to directly connect a science concept to every students' life.

    Generally the discrepancy of the experience is enough to get them excited and have fun, but I will still get those who will enjoy working with the lab but won't want to talk about it.

    I like how you mention teaching them specific skills such as disagreeing. Interesting ideas!
     
  17. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    I use think-pair-share with my students. Every student has to write a response to a question, then share it in their small groups (2-3 students) which I use as my "pair" step, and then share it as a class. During the pairing step, I encourage students to listen to what the other is saying and discuss their ideas- students are allowed to edit their responses if they want to (I try to get them to cross out the old ideas and add in the new instead of erasing old ideas).

    To help this work, I try to pair students with similar abilities- quieter students together, those with "stronger" personalities together. Or I'll try to mix it up, if there's a skill one student does very well with I'll pair him/her with a weaker student in hopes that skill could be modeled for them.

    If I have a weaker class, I'll often give them a prompt with 3 ideas that they have to discuss together to choose the best answer and explain why. For science, these are awesome books to use: http://www.nsta.org/publications/press/uncovering.aspx
     
  18. ScienceEd

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    conversation dice:

    you have them roll some dice and ask each other questions based upon the dice number (you make a list of questions with cooresponding numbers)

    It might help facilitate conversation. haven't tried it yet but sounds like it might work.
     
  19. nyteacher29

    nyteacher29 Comrade

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    i use the dice strategy (bought some off kagan's website) i also created a discussion check list in which the table captain records who participated and how. there are two mandatory components --asking a question and making connection. the other OPTIONS are reading a passage, helping another student, giving a possible answer, defining a word. i didnt think it would work, but it does for some reason. the students see it as a game --which table can get the most people to participate. my goal for next year is to increase the questions the students ask each other and thw text
     
  20. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Interesting. Do you grade them on this? How would you grade this?
     
  21. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Not trying to derail but I absolutely loathe inside circle/outside circle. As someone who has done classwide discussions for years I found it to be the fastest way to get kids to disengage with the process.

    Back to the original question, I've never really encountered or heard of doing small group discussions like that. I've heard plenty of pair discussions and classwide but never the "middle" ones. What is the rationale behind aiming for that group size Peregrin?
     
  22. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I'm thinking mostly because those are the groups they work in with labs. The lab groups are assigned in this way mostly due to constraints with materials. Since a group of 3 or 4 would likely be at the same station, they will likely have collected the same data and would be able to provide different views on the same data.

    I guess it would be entirely possible to have them do the labs in their lab groups but discuss in pairs or threes though! I didn't think of that.
     

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