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Discussion Toolkit

Discussion Toolkit

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Discussion Toolkit

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  1. Discussion Toolkit Made by Mike Gershon –

  2. Why talk? An empty workbook, or lack of ‘product’ from a lesson, is often deemed a failure. This belief, supported as it is by much of the reporting and inspection process used to assess schools, can lead to the assumption that work or learning done in lessons should be tangible. There should be something to show. Much research and personal experience suggests that understanding does not stem solely – or necessarily most effectively – from writing or creating something. Therefore the assumption that learning, deep learning, must always be evidenced by a physical product is false. Lev Vygotsky, the Russian psychologist, wrote that speaking and thinking were intimately linked. The process of speaking helps us to learn by articulating our thoughts and developing the concepts we use to understand the world. Communication and understanding improve with practice. Therefore, the opportunity to talk is vital in order to develop understanding. Of course talk in itself is not simply enough – the talk must be focussed on what is desired to be developed. Just as an unfocussed piece of writing will lead to unfocussed results, so it is true of discussion and debate. The activities described in this toolkit are all intended to help facilitate and scaffold talk so that it is purposeful, structured (or deliberately unstructured) and appropriate to the students and setting. If nothing else, encouraging and valuing talk sends out a message that communication is important – both listening and speaking – and that it is a good end of itself.

  3. Different Types of Talk Mercer (1995) identified three different types of talk: • Disputational (claim and then counterclaim) • Cumulative (repeat, confirm, elaborate) • Exploratory (critical and constructive) The last two tend to be most common in PSHE, as students are encouraged to explore emotions, values, identities and other such personal positions. Disputational talk may have a place from time to time, however its argumentative style is unlikely to create a safe and comfortable environment. It may also make students feel reluctant to talk for fear of their personal positions being attacked. Cumulative talk is excellent for creating an accepting, safe atmosphere. Here, “speakers build on each other’s contributions, add information of their own and in a mutually supportive, uncritical way construct together a body of shared knowledge and understanding.” (Mercer, Words and Minds, 2000)

  4. Activities for discussion and debate Below are a variety of activities which can be used to facilitate discussion and debate. Either scroll through, or start the slide show and click on the links. Circle TimePhilosophy for Children Rainbow GroupsSnowballing Pair Talk Listening Triad EnvoysJigsawing Value ContinuumHot Seating DistancingGoldfish Bowl Freeze FrameSix Thinking Hats Free DiscussionRadio Phone-In TV Chat ShowCircle of Voices Post-It DialoguesRotating Stations Think-Pair-Share3-Step Interview

  5. Circle Time • Purpose: • Sharing ideas, experiences, feelings. Furthering understanding of self and others. Articulating group issues. • Set Up: • Everyone sits in a circle either on chairs or on the floor. There is an item (such as a bean bag or ball) that is held by whoever is speaking. • How it works: • The teacher sits on the same type of chair or cushion as everyone else. This helps to signal that what is happening is a special kind of classroom activity in which the teacher is a facilitator rather than a director. The teacher has a special responsibility to make sure that structured rules of the Circle Time are kept, that everyone's emotions are protected and that suitable activities are prepared. The teacher must also be ready to draw a session to a close if students are persistently breaking the rules. • The most important thing about the rules for circle time is that they should be discussed and agreed by all members. This is one of the first activities that should take place. Three basic rules which should be discussed are: • Only one person should speak at once - the talking object helps this rule • You can "pass" if you don’t want to speak about something • No put downs Find Out More: Return to contents

  6. Philosophy for Children Purpose: P4C aims to encourage children (or adults) to think critically, caringly, creatively and collaboratively. It helps teachers to build a 'community of enquiry' where participants create and enquire into their own questions, and 'learn how to learn' in the process. (Will Ord - Set Up: Arrange the chairs in a circle and (if you feel it is required) have an item (such as a bean bag or ball) that is used to denote who is speaking. Place stimulus material around the room for students to view. How it works: Introduce the topic and explain the process. Students begin by having a few minutes to look at some of the stimulus material. On returning to the circle they are given 1-2 minutes to think of questions related to the topic/stimulus they would like answered. These are shared and a vote is taken on which question to discuss. Teacher acts as facilitator – reframing questions as required, posing development questions or mediating the group to ensure all can participate. Find Out More: Return to contents

  7. Rainbow Groups Purpose: Encourages every child to listen (to their home group) and talk (to their colour group) Set Up: Standard group work set up with space to move and discuss. How it works: Place students in groups with a topic (the same for all, or different topics) to discuss (this is their ‘home’ group). After discussion students are given a colour and regroup accordingly. The new groups should have a member from each of the ‘home’ groups. The students then take it in turns to report back what their groups discussed. This can then lead into further discussion. Find Out More: Return to contents

  8. Snowballing Purpose: Encourages use of negotiation, empathy and reasoning Set Up: Standard classroom for group work How it works: First, students have to individually produce an answer. They then share it with a partner and turn their two answers into one agreed upon answer. The pair then joins up with another pair and repeats the process. This way, four answers are synthesised into one. e.g. First student chooses three things for an ideal life. Pair then discuss and synthesise their 6 down to three. The four does the same again. Return to contents

  9. Pair Talk Purpose: To allow articulation of ideas, active listening and focussed discussion. Using pairs means all students have more opportunity to speak and assists those less confident in larger groups. Set Up: Best to have a little distance between pairs to reinforce the purpose and discourage moving into conversation with others. How it works: Use a stimulus, specific question or topic area for students to talk around. Model active listening and responding. Label as A and B to maintain on topic if not doing so (i.e. A is now listening and B talking then swap). Ask students to come up with questions they want answered individually which they then discuss in pairs. Set a target for pairs to achieve – i.e. produce an answer to this Find Out More: Return to contents

  10. Listening Triad Purpose: Structured means of eliciting information, developing concepts and understanding and processing what is said. Also promotes self-awareness through role of observer. Set Up: Students in threes, two sat facing, one slightly offset – not engaged but observing. How it works: Pupils work in groups of three. Each pupil takes on the role of talker, questioner, recorder. The talker explains something, or comments on an issue, or expresses an opinion. The questioner prompts and seeks clarification The recorder makes notes and gives a report at the end of the conversation. Next time, roles are changed. (from Find Out More Return to contents

  11. Envoys Purpose: Active listening, public speaking and clarity of exposition, sharing and creating interdependence. Set Up: Pods around the room of groups 3-4 How it works: Once groups have carried out a task, one person from each group is selected as an ‘envoy’ and moves to a new group to explain and summarise, and to find out what the new group thought, decided or achieved. The envoy then returns to the original group and feeds back. This is an effective way of avoiding tedious and repetitive ‘reporting back’ sessions. It also puts a ‘press’ on the envoy’s use of language and creates groups of active listeners. (from Find Out More,page&id=263 Return to contents

  12. Jigsawing Purpose: Structured way of dealing with a series of questions and promoting team work. Set Up: Pods around the room of groups 3-4 How it works: The advantage of a ‘jigsaw’ is that it offers a structure for group work, and promotes a range of speaking and listening. • The teacher divides the whole class into small groups (commonly four pupils per group). These are teacher-initiated in order to make each group reflect the balance of the whole class – gender, ability, attitude. • Each Home Group is given a common task. Handouts are employed in order to set the task. Reading material is kept to a manageable length and complexity. If the home groups are of four, then there are four questions or tasks within the main task – one for each member of the group. Questions or tasks are allocated within each group, through negotiation between the pupils. • All the pupils who have selected a particular question or task regroup into Expert groups and work together on what is now a common problem and outcome. By the time this stage of the session is completed, each has become an expert on this matter, through discussion and collaboration with the other ‘experts’. • Original groups reform. Dissemination begins. The home groups are set a final task. This could be a group outcome, or an individual task. The crucial element is to ensure that pupils have to draw on the combined ‘wisdom’ of the home group in order to complete it successfully. (from Return to contents Find Out More:

  13. Value Continuum Purpose: To express opinions, show values, discuss differences of opinion, engage in public discussion. Set Up: Use a piece of rope or string for the continuum; have arrows pointing on the board; place the two extremes of opinion on opposite walls. How it works: In this format students or groups of students have to respond to a thought provoking statement by saying to what degree they agree with it. There are a number of ways this can to used: the students could be asked to come and stand at the point on a line that represents their individual opinion, alternatively, first they could be asked to discuss a statement in groups and then for one of the group to come up to the front and place their groups card/token somewhere along the line, explaining the position their group have taken as they do so. This is an excellent format for comparing responses to different questions and finding out contradictions in their thinking (from Find Out More Return to contents

  14. Hot Seating Purpose: Dramatic device to encourage empathy, means of ‘realising’ content, allows for probing questioning and reasoning of positions. Set Up: One student at front, semi-circle or audience of chairs facing. How it works: One student comes to the front expresses their opinion and responds to questioning on a topic. Can be done by students to taking on particular viewpoints or personas to make it less personal, or more engaged with the content. For example the students may play the role of a specific character or type of person (i.e. Gordon Brown or a young single mother) Find Out More Return to contents

  15. Distancing Purpose: To deal with sensitive, emotional or controversial issues. Set Up: Nothing specific How it works: Use narrative, drama, role-play and so on to distance students from sensitive, emotional or controversial topics. For example, rather than asking them to discuss their feelings on bereavement outright, you may use a narrative from a bereaved young person and then ask the students to discuss how that person may have felt. Find Out More (Lesson 2) Return to contents

  16. Goldfish Bowl Purpose: Gives opportunities for group presentation of ideas, development of reasoning, analytical questioning, exchange of ideas. Set Up: Chairs at the for group, rest of class sat as audience. How it works: Like hot seating except a whole group comes to the front and expresses their views. They are in the goldfish bowls, with other students able to question them, push for clarification and so on. Find Out More Return to contents

  17. Freeze Frame Purpose: Kinaesthetic approach to aid discussion Set Up: Start in a circle and then break out into pods – move tables so there is room to manoeuvre. How it works: Students are asked to create a freeze frame of a topic, story or statement. A freeze frame is a point at which the ‘camera’ has stopped – it has a before and after that are not seen by the audience (hence it is different from a still image). Groups then show their freeze frame to the rest of the class who guess what it is and then go on to discuss around it. Find Out More Return to contents

  18. Six Thinking Hats Purpose: To breakdown different parts of thinking in order to discuss more effectively and be more aware of the influences on your own thought. Set Up: Nothing specific How it works: There are six hats, each representing a different element of thinking. Students are given a hat (real or imaginary) and asked to think through the discussion using that hat. The idea is to thus create a map covering all the different elements of an issue or idea. The class could be divided into different hats and the teacher manage the discussion. Find Out More Return to contents

  19. Free Discussion Purpose: Encourage responsibility, student-led, avoids teacher focus or retreading of tired points. Set Up: Groups or whole class, circle, pods or table and chairs How it works: This can be done with smaller groups or the whole class. As it is not structured this sort of discussion may require some more facilitation. This can be the teacher or session leader for the whole group but if there are a number of groups staffing may not allow a facilitator for each group. In this case one option may be to ask one of the students to act as a facilitator, this is probably a technique to use once the students have experienced positive models of how a facilitator should act and discussed key aspects of behaviour in this role. (From Return to contents

  20. Radio Phone-In Purpose: Active listening, shows many sides of a discussion Set Up: Teacher (or student) Is the radio host with four guests (students) and an audience (rest of class) How it works: There is a topic to discuss, led by the radio host. The four guests receive role-play cards and are asked to take on that character for the discussion. Audience peer assesses, ‘rings-in’ with questions, takes notes with a listening frame and so on. Return to contents

  21. TV Chat Show Purpose: Lots of speaking and listening, visual as well as auditory, easy reference point for lots of students (and teachers!). Set Up: Depends what chat show you want to mimic How it works: Teacher is the host with students as different characters discussing a topic. Audience asks questions, gets involved in the discussion, peer assesses and so on. Could be Newsnight, Opah, Parkinson, Montel –style etc. Panel show, family feud, revelations, question time etc. • Find out more Return to contents

  22. Circle of Voices Purpose: Generate ideas, develop listening skills, have all students participate, equalize learning environment Set Up: Moveable chairs preferable How it works: This method involves students taking turns to speak. Students form circles of four or five. Give students a topic, and allow them a few minutes to organize their thoughts about it. Then the discussion begins, with each student having up to three minutes (or choose a different length) of uninterrupted time to speak. During this time, no one else is allowed to say anything. After everyone has spoken once, open the floor within the subgroup for general discussion. Specify that students should only build on what someone else has said, not on their own ideas; also, at this point, they should not introduce new ideas (Brookfield & Preskill, 1999) (all from ) Return to contents Find Out More

  23. Post-It Dialogues Purpose: Public discussion without necessarily having to ‘speak’ publicly, visual a, kinaesthetic and auditory elements, good for having something tangible to discuss ‘around’ Set Up: Post-it notes for each student, space to move around How it works: Lots of different ways – could have a few sheets of sugar paper with statements or questions on and students read them and post comments; groups of 3/4/5 have to answer question on post its, or produce comments, which they then share, discuss and present; could use ‘role on the wall’ and students express opinions/emotions on post-its. Return to contents

  24. Rotating Stations Purpose: Build on others’ ideas, cover a topic or question holistically, active and pacey Set Up: Series of stations around the room with stimulus, sugar paper and pens (or give each group a different coloured pen to take around – therefore keep track of who’s contributed what) How it works: Locate each small group at a station where they are given 10 minutes to discuss a provocative issue and record their ideas on newsprint or a chalkboard. When this time is up the groups move to new stations in the classroom where they continue their discussion, based on the ideas they encounter from the previous group. Rotations continue every 10 minutes until each group has been at all of the positions and has had a chance to consider all of the other groups' comments (from Return to contents

  25. Think-Pair-Share Purpose: Structured way of developing ideas and thoughts Set Up: Nothing specific How it works: See below Find out more,_pair,_share.htm Return to contents

  26. Three Step Interview Purpose: Structured way of developing ideas and thoughts Set Up: Pods of four How it works: Divide four-member groups into two pairs: A and B, C and D. In step 1, A interviews B while C interviews D. In step 2, reverse roles: B interviews A while D interviews C. In step 3, share-around: each person shares information about his/her partners in the group of 4. (From ) Find Out More Return to contents