Since I wrote the post about Graph Theory, I’ve been toying with discussion in my head. So here’s what I’m thinking about one week later.

1) Create a rubric for pre-, during-, (and maybe post-) discussion for teachers.  This would include some of the 5 Practices explained here (thanks productivestruggle) and generally require that before discussion, the teacher knows what thinking from which students is most going to shape the discussion.  So yes, these rubrics will exist (soon? somewhat?).

2) Allow for different whole-class discussion modes. And practice/debrief them with students. There are lots of different types of discussions. I’m imagining places where the loudest voice wins and discussions are freeform versus places where people take intentional turns sharing ideas. Why shouldn’t the classroom have similarly varied discussion modes? I’m imagining that we could name whatever discussion modes we come up with and choose our mode based on the discussion or what the presenter/discussion-leader wants. (What other categories besides loudest-voice-wins and raising-hands should I be thinking about?)

3) Making norms with students, regardless of the discussion. Many teachers have students rephrase what the last person said before adding to the discussion; that is going to be one norm for sure. Other norms: How do students/how can we unobtrusively show agreement/appreciation for the speaker without re-stating? What language should we use for agreement/disagreement/building? How do we disagree respectfully? How do we react if we feel attacked?

Next year (maybe this year – team NV?), I want to start by having a “dual circles” discussion where, having established some norms, we have a discussion with half the class actually talking and the other half taking notes on what’s happening during the discussion, all followed by a debrief.

Also, JK and I have plans for making some pretty awesome exemplar (and non-exemplar) videos this summer — for turn-and-talks, small group, and whole-class discussions. Anyone want to star in them with us? You’d be FAMOUS.



7 thoughts on “Discussions

  1. Video demos would be SO fantastically helpful. As a department chair I am trying to get my team pulling in this direction, but (at the risk of sounding mean or jaded or cynical or…) I have found that getting my math team to buy in on spending time reading and then discussing has not been all that successful at any of the schools I’ve been a part of. The book link (through Christopher’s page) looks great and I’ll add it to MY reading list this summer. My other math peeps? Don’t know if they’ll take to the idea quite the same way…

    • I’m hoping to win over more people in my math team by doing things and then inviting people to visit? Assuming I actually do things well …

      Sometimes I get people to read things by being completely excited by what I’m reading until they want to read it themselves! But that only sometimes works.

  2. when i read (2) I immediate thought peeling the onion…heehee….good times. the “dual circles” sounds like socratic seminar somewhat? there’s another version of that called philosophical chairs which might be interesting to add to the list of discussion modes.

  3. This comes just at the right time for me — this year I realized that I had been lucky several years in a row, with groups that gelled and individuals who had a complementary variety of group-discussion skills. When I suddenly found myself needing to teach those things explicitly, I wasn’t sure where to start. So I look forward to reading more — definitely helpful to follow others’ journey through these ideas.

    The things I’ve been thinking about so far (including the post Dan links to above) are mostly riffing off of Brian Frank (who is also a fan of “5 Practices”). I’m especially indebted to Brian’s ideas about “generative” questions and the need to provide a productive place for student ideas to go, even/especially ideas that are “misconceptions” in my frame of reference. If you haven’t read his stuff, a few especially helpful posts are
    Skillsets for Working in Small Groups
    Acceleration and Generative Ideas
    A Misconception is Just an Insight Without a Productive Place to Go
    Teacher as Listener: What Are You Listening For?

    • These are such good articles/posts – thanks! I am excited to read them in full. And to keep thinking/discussion (ha!) deeply about explicitly teaching discussion.

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