SEMINAR DISCUSSION FOR ESL STUDENTS Peggy Armstrong English Language Program University of North Florida
WHY? • ELP students in UNF classes were unable to speak in class discussions. • Why? • Not enough confidence • Slow reaction times • Lack of vocabulary • Difficulty being understood • Different cultural expectations
Level 5 – Concurrent Enrollment Seminar Discussion Class • Two hours weekly • Based on Socratic principles • Student-empowering • Student-led conversations • Student-generated questions • Students have input in topic choice • Students share personal thoughts and ideas
How does it work? • The class reads an article, essay, or story OR the class watches a DVD or online video. • In teams or pairs, students compose discussion questions. • Each person has responsibility for leading the group in a discussion.
What are the rules? • Guidelines for Participants in a Seminar adapted from http://www.studyguide.org/socratic_seminar.htm#Guidelines • Refer to the text when needed during the discussion • It's OK to "pass" when asked to contribute. • Do not stay confused; ask for clarification. • Stick to the point currently under discussion • Discuss ideas rather than each other's opinions. There should be no personal attacks. Avoid the use of “You said.” • Don't raise hands; take turns speaking. • Listen carefully. • Do not dominate the conversation. After you have spoken, encourage others to respond to your statement. • Speak up so that all can hear you. • Talk to each other, not just to the leader or teacher. • You are responsible for the seminar.
What should we understand? Dialogue is collaborative. • In dialogue, we listen to understand.. • Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes our point of view. • Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude. • In dialogue, we expect that other people's thoughts will help improve our thinking rather than threaten it. • Dialogue sometimes calls for temporarily suspending our beliefs. • In dialogue, we search for strengths in all positions.. • Dialogue respects all the other participants and seeks not to alienate or offend.. • Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of answers and that cooperation can lead to a greater understanding. • Dialogue remains open-ended.
TYPES OF QUESTIONS Discussion Questions • CLOSE-ENDED QUESTION: Write a question that will help everyone in the class come to an agreement about events or characters in the reading or film. This question usually has a "correct" answer that we can find.Example: Why did Thoreau go to live in the woods? • OPEN-ENDED QUESTION: Write a question about the text that will require logic to discover or explore the answer to the question.Example: Why did he choose Walden Pond for his experiment? • UNIVERSAL THEME/ CORE QUESTION: Write a question about a theme in the text or video that will encourage group discussion about the universality of the idea. (True in general – or for all people?)Example: Do modern people still look for “wildness” in civilization? • ANALYSIS QUESTION: Write a question dealing with HOW an author wrote or WHY the filmmaker chose a particular scene. Example: How does Thoreau’s use of the first person (I caught a glimpse of a woodchuck) affect the story? If he had used the third person, (there was a woodchuck), how would the story be different? • WORLD CONNECTION QUESTION: Write a question connecting the text to the real world. (Connect the idea to yourself.)Example: If you were asked to pack your most precious belongings in a back pack and to join Thoreau in the woods, what would you pack?
Preparing students to speak • Student leaders - Comprehensible questions?. • Group interaction – Vocabulary tools? • Group comprehension of the materials – Preview vocabulary • Shy students? Can prepare answers to their own questions– can pass when needed but must make at least one contribution
Examples of Materials • Textbooks:TheAmerican Ways (Longman); What I Believe (Longman); books of essays; excerpts from autobiographies • Websites:NPR This I Believe http://thisibelieve.org; PBS Frontline– http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline; ABC Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution - http://abc.go.com/shows/jamie-olivers-food-revolution/video • DVD’s:The Power of Forgiveness; Food, Inc.; Sicko; Bowling for Columbine • Web searches: Examples – Civil Rights pioneers • Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott Thurgood Marshall Little Rock Nine Greensboro Sit-ins Freedom Riders Mildred and Richard Loving Jackie Robinson