Classroom discussions can promote comprehension and synthesis of your content-area standards. However, authentic conversations require the teacher to step back and allow students to talk. Don’t be the one asking all the questions and proposing all the discussion points. This impedes the conversation from ever advancing beyond a Q & A. To improve the dynamics of the classroom discussion, try one of these two strategies.
- WHOLE-CLASS CONVERSATIONS. As students share their thoughts and opinions, walk around the room rather than standing at the front in lecture mode. As a student offers a response, stand behind his chair and look at him as he speaks. This forces all eyes on him and takes them off of you. When that student finishes, move behind the next student who speaks. Train students to change their visual focus and talk to one another.
- SMALL-GROUP CONVERSATIONS. Within small groups, there are often one or two students who dominate the talk time allowing others to “hide.” Address this situation with Laura Candler’s Talking Sticks strategy. Provide each student with three Popsicle sticks or tongue depressors. As a student wants to share, he extends one of his Talking Sticks to signal that he has something to say and then places the stick in the middle while he is speaking. Others take turns and students continue to talk until their sticks are all in the middle. When a student runs out of Talking Sticks, he is done contributing until all students have used all of their sticks. Then, pass them out again and continue the conversation.