How to Create Meaningful Discussions

18 September 2015

     Today I had one of the best AHA! moments while teaching. We were sharing our writing journals after morning work, and I wanted the students to share what their thoughts and opinions with one another in their groups. I simply said to them, "You have one minute to share what you liked about or share what you hope we add to our new Edmodo account."

     I observed the students sharing their own ideas with the group and assumed the others were listening. Then I asked for a speaker from each group to present the likes and wishes. NOT ONE OUT OF THE SIX GROUPS COULD TELL ME WHAT ANYONE IN THEIR GROUP SAID! 

     That's when I realized, I need to teach these kids not only how to think but also how to speak and listen. 

     I know I have to teach them those big ideas because they're Common Core Standards, but how the heck to you actually teach students how to speak and listen? Here's what I've come up with:

1. Set ground rules. You can create your own ground rules or have the students come up with their own ground rules. Prompt them with questions like, "So what should you do if someone is talking off subject?" or "What do you do if you want to speak but someone else is speaking?" Create a problem and solutions chart or simple ground rules. Keep them short and sweet between 3-5 rules. 

2. Have them discuss higher order thinking questions or prompts. Try to use topics where there is no right or wrong answer. Everyone will come up with different opinions and they need to learn that not everyone will think like them. 

3. The best thing I did today was tell them they couldn't restate what they said in the group, have the students share another students' opinion from the group. I finally told my class today, there are no "I" statements, you have to start off by saying, "___________ said we should have..." 

After I did this (which literally took two minutes) we had meaningful conversations about what information we should share on our Edmodo account. My students request learning games that were like sandbox games (any good suggestions just post in the comments), interactive games, and homework help. How cool was that? I heard many of them saying, "Oh yeah that's a good idea!" Or "I didn't think of that!" 

I have plenty more instruction and tips on how to teach speaking and listening along with lesson plans in my Wild Weather Collaborative Project in my TpT store. 

"If you can teach a child to speak, then you give them a voice. If you teach a child to listen, then you give them an opinion." -Me, Sarah Barnett, Teacher, Blogger, want-to-make-a-cool-quoter

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