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Teaching through Discussions

posted Mar 10, 2019, 4:59 PM by HSD Principal
Allison Cook and Dr. Orit Kent talk about how classroom discussions can be intentional teaching tools in Look Who’s Talking: Teaching Power and Responsibility Through Classroom Interactions. They share the story of some teachers' attempts to balance classroom influence and input during discussions. A recurring theme is that students don't know how to engage in effective discussions automatically; they need to be taught the appropriate skills.

Below are some of the things they say teachers can do in order to "distribute power and responsibility to all students."
  • Give every student more time to talk, to talk with one another, and time without the authority figure of the teacher mediating and evaluating—but give them the tools to talk productively.
  • Give students protocols and routines that give each individual student a time, role and opportunity to contribute and hold them accountable for their contributions.
  • Make sure classroom discourse is not limited to the “big stage” of the full group. Students need time to practice without feeling like they are in front of a big audience.
  • Teach students the words they can use with each other to explore, probe and refine ideas together productively.
  • Make sure students get to ask and pursue some of their own questions and wonderings, not just the teacher’s questions or the curriculum’s, so that students understand that they too are responsible for the agenda and for using criteria for identifying and pursuing questions worthy of study.