Learn what works
Discussion provides students with opportunities to build in-depth knowledge of subject matter. The Iowa Core Curriculum includes speaking as one of the five areas of literacy; discussion is, of course, a skill that is part of speaking. According to Nystrand & Gamoran, discussion is “thoughtful and sustained examination of a given topic over a period of time involving substantial contributions and reflections by both teacher and students.” Peer discussions are preferred over teacher-led discussions because many times these become question-answer periods.
- What it is: Few questions. What it isn’t: Many questions.
- What it is: Questions are used to clarify or elaborate on ideas. What it isn’t: Quizzing students for a pre-determined answer.
- What it is: Building upon other’s ideas and perspectives. What it isn’t: Random thoughts and questions.
- What it is: Student-centered. What it isn’t: Teacher- centered.
- What it is: Frequent opportunities for discussion. What it isn’t: Only occurs “once-in-awhile.”
- What it is: Connect to background knowledge. What it isn’t: Little or no opportunity to connect to background knowledge.
- What it is: Explore different perspectives of the subject. What it isn’t: One perspective is presented and explored.
- What it is: Frequent interaction with each other. What it isn’t: Interaction is limited.
- What it is:Teacher acts as a guide, coach and facilitator. What it isn’t…Teacher is seen as the expert
See how it works
Engage Students in a Discussion
- Teach students the behaviors of discussion
- Utilize partners to maximize participation
- Ask engaging questions
- What was your favorite part of the story?
- What surprised you in the story?
- What did the author want us to feel about ________?
- How is the story similar to ________?
- What is another way the story could have ended?
- Looks Like: Facing peers. Sounds Like: Using a pleasant, easy to hear voice.
- Looks Like: Making eye contact. Sounds Like:Sharing opinions and supporting facts.
- Looks Like: Participating. Sounds Like:Sharing positive comments.
- Looks Like: Listening. Sounds Like:Staying on topic.
Do what works
- Accelerating Adolescent Literacy: A report from Iowa’s adolescent literacy research and development team.