Discussions are a fantastic teaching tool to engage all students, through connecting the subject material with the students’ own thoughts and experiences. This means that their learning is memorable.
- Conventional Discussion with a Twist. Students present their perspectives either verbally, written or physically in a discussion line then the teachers role (or a very confident or high achieving student) plays Devil’s Advocate. The students know what to expect (so the points are taken seriously but not offensively) and the students must justify their views in light of the further ‘controversial’ points raised. Review: very good for challenging high ability or verbal students.
2. Don’t Tell me Show me. A more physical discussion can be created with a Discussion Line. Because this activity promotes movement students have to make a decision on their perspective without relying upon others views (also quiet students contribute as well). Review: good for motivating students to pick a perspective, all students involved including quieter members of the class.
3. Discussions Under Construction. The final type of discussion develops the student’s essay writing technique by layering arguments using building blocks. The use of colours can distinguish between different types of argument and each student in small groups has a coloured block so must contribute. Review: Challenges students to build upon previously given perspectives, promotes group work and all students must contribute as each student is given a coloured block.
Further Discussion Activities:
• Formal debate: (two side, four side, court case) Court Cases can be memorable, challenging and engaging for all. Each student has their own role: judge, jury members who scribe the debate, defence lawyers, prosecutors and criminals. Each student/ team are allocated time to prepare their points, each team then presents their points with an opportunity for opposing teams to question and raise issues. The judge decides the fate.
• Movie make/ pictures/ film clip: students write down everything they can remember, all students contributes one point.
• Post it note: agree/ disagree “Violence must be met by nonviolence” Martin Luther King – share and stick on board.
• Silent debate: set an essay style question (or several) one student writes answer, next student must respond or support but not speak.
• Non bias debate: students make personal views known then they must argue/ defend/ debate the other view instead (very good for higher ability students/ or for very talkative, active discussers).
For more lesson ideas check out Are you a discussion ‘Log or Hog’? or tips to facilitate a successful discussion see How to facilitate a successful classroom discussion?