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Deep Discourse: A Framework for Cultivating Student-Led Discussions-use conversation to raise student learning, motivation, and engagement in K-12 cla

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When educators provide explicit instruction, guidance, and feedback to students and let them steer the dialogue, students develop essential critical-thinking, problem-solving, and self-directed learning skills. This book details a framework for implementing student-led classroom discussions that improve student learning, motivation, and engagement across all levels and subject areas. The text features tools, tips, and exercises, plus unrehearsed videos of student-led classroom discussions.

Benefits

  • Implement the student-led discussion framework and measure progress with the rubric for student-led discussions.
  • Watch videos of real discussions among K–12 students and convey how educators and administrators can best prompt students to engage in their own productive conversations.
  • Explore questions for stimulating students’ critical thinking in multiple subject areas.
  • Examine students’ thoughts about being involved in their own student-led discussions.
  • Follow “Take Action” prompts to exercise newly acquired knowledge.
  • Access free reproducible versions of tools and rubrics featured in the book.

Contents

About the Authors

Introduction

  1. Articulating the Need for Student-Led Discussions
  2. Establishing a Discussion Framework for Student Success
  3. Beginning the Journey
  4. Experimenting with Different Discussion Formats and Strategies
  5. Using Discussion in Different Content Areas
  6. Getting to Deep Discourse
  7. Pulling It All Together: Tools and Tips

Conclusion

References and Resources

 

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Chapter 1 Articulating the Need for Student-Led Discussions

ePub

Student-led discussions motivate me to work with others, inspire me to do more, and change my thinking.

—MACKENZIE, grade 6

Real-world success requires us to engage with others to learn, create, and produce in hopes of sparking new thinking and learning. Our classrooms are filled with curious, innovative minds that our instructional practices aren’t embracing. Our students want to talk—they need to talk!

Although many definitions of discussion exist, we believe one view best reflects the type of discussions we want to advocate in classrooms. Authors Jackie Acree Walsh and Beth Dankert Sattes (2015) define discussion as “a process through which individual students give voice to their thoughts in a disciplined manner as they interact with others to make meaning and advance individual and collective understanding” (p. 33). When expectations are clearly set and modeled for students, the students then can take over. The result is meaningful discussion without teacher prompting—discussions that promote higher-order thinking skills and use questioning techniques in a meaningful context (Cameron, Murray, Hull, & Cameron, 2012). A certain magic of learning takes over when students become the catalyst for classroom discussions.

 

Chapter 2 Establishing a Discussion Framework for Student Success

ePub

We no longer need to be told what to do and how to do it. We use each other for learning and make decisions about where to go next.

—CONNOR, grade 7

Consistency and structure are important elements of effective instruction. Implementing a framework for student-led discussions, and using it routinely, builds comfort and confidence with the model. When students know what the structures and routines are, they can move more efficiently through daily procedures. Our students gain stronger understanding of their role in discussion, take charge of their learning, and hold themselves accountable. As this process evolves, we guide students’ learning by providing explicit instruction and observing their implementation of strategies and skills while giving feedback to individual students and groups.

Table 2.1 (page 16) breaks down the framework for student-led discussions; the framework can be used in any grade and subject. This framework provides a cyclical model that, when applied consistently, creates discussions that evolve in complexity and rigor. The table lists descriptors of teacher and student actions to guide the process.

 

Chapter 3 Beginning the Journey

ePub

Starting was the hardest part, but now I help others in my class with reading more because we get to talk to our friends about it.

—GABE, grade 3

In order for anything to thrive and be successful in the classroom, the teacher and all students need to be invested, engaged, and active participants in their learning community. Student-led discussions are no different. They call on us to establish, create, and maintain a classroom environment where all students contribute equally, are cared for, and respected. Roles need clear definition and students must hold themselves and others accountable to the established and practiced expectations. The teacher must think, plan, and instruct differently in order to create a content-rich environment that ignites students’ minds and passions through discussion.

When we are apprehensive about beginning something new in the classroom, it is usually because we fear it won’t go well. We don’t know enough or we aren’t sure if our students will achieve to our expectations. We already know the content, we’re getting to know our students more each day, and we are hungry for students to use their energy in positive ways for learning. These ingredients are the recipe for a successful start.

 

Chapter 4 Experimenting With Different Discussion Formats and Strategies

ePub

Discussion with other kids helps motivate me. If you have a teacher standing in front asking questions, most kids aren’t going to raise their hands and think. But when you are in a group discussion, you have to say something—you get your ideas out.

—AUSTIN, grade 9

You’re inspired to jump in and begin your journey by providing the conditions, time, and space for student-led discussions that you read about in chapter 3 (page 43). You know the recipe and ingredients to invigorate student learning through dialogue among students using the framework chapter 2 (page 15) describes. You can take the next step by putting those elements together along with a discussion format that fits with what you are already doing in your classroom. In this chapter, we offer a variety of discussion formats teachers can incorporate into their lessons. Consider the following example as a way to include different structures to help students understand content.

A class may begin with a think-pair-share about a question related to the learning target that sparks student thinking and creates additional questions as well as answers. This format allows a student to think about a topic individually before they pair with a partner and discuss what each person is thinking. Then, they pair with a partner and discuss what each person is thinking. Finally, the teachers ask student pairs to share their ideas with other students in the class. After generating interest, the teacher delivers explicit instruction with modeling in a focus lesson and may use a shared reading, video, or audio clip to provide background knowledge while further stimulating student interest in the topic.

 

Chapter 5 Using Discussion in Different Content Areas

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If you don’t understand the math work, homework will be really hard. When you’re in small groups, someone can explain it to you so you understand.

—BRIN, grade 7

We often associate student-led discussions with literacy-based classes. However, as we touched on in chapter 4, understanding and retention of material increases significantly in all content areas when the presentation of content is mixed with frequent opportunities for students to talk. Therefore, all educators must be open to opportunities for students to learn from others through discussion.

The classroom culture impacts how freely students engage in discussion. Welcoming and inclusive classroom cultures promote collaborative learning where students are encouraged to take risks and make mistakes while teachers provide feedback and allow revisions. In these schools, the emphasis is on student growth and understanding while still paying close attention to student achievement.

Students who experience discussion demonstrate higher levels of thinking and increases in student achievement (Applebee, 2003; Murphy et al., 2009). Yet, in order to maximize cooperation’s benefits, and ultimately promote learning, students must understand how to work together, contribute, accept responsibility for completing their part of the task, and help others learn in a supportive environment (Frey, Fisher, & Everlove, 2009; Johnson & Johnson, 1990, 2006; Slavin, 1995).

 

Chapter 6 Getting to Deep Discourse

ePub

I feel like an inflated balloon filled with ideas about the book. After we have a book conversation, the ideas get filtered out and I feel better.

—PETER, grade 5

It was the beginning of October, and Ms. Swanson had been explicitly teaching skills and strategies for her fourth- and fifth-grade students to engage in meaningful discussions. She explains to her class that having a deep discussion about text is like learning to play basketball. “First, you learn how to dribble, shoot, and make offensive and defensive moves in isolation during practice. Relatively soon into the season, your team plays a game of basketball where you need to apply all the things you learned,” she says.

Ms. Swanson adds, “During the first few games of the season, you may not be very good. For example, the ball might hit your foot as you dribble down the court or the ball may not even touch the rim of the hoop when you take a shot. As you continue to practice, receive feedback, and apply the new techniques your coach describes, your skills improve. You begin to make improvements as a team as well as individually.”

 

Chapter 7 Pulling It All Together: Tools and Tips

ePub

In younger grades, teachers want you to do group presentations. You freak out thinking about it. But as I get to talk more in discussions, I feel more comfortable expressing how I feel and think. It helps increase my confidence!

—TAM, grade 9

The epigraphs in this book highlight various students expressing their opinions about leading and being involved in their own small-group discussions. Matthew (see page 153) tells us that it motivates him to read and contribute; Tam’s confidence is built through small-group discussions; and Peter (see page 105) feels relieved to express his feelings. Certainly it comes as no surprise that students enjoy and look forward to opportunities where they can engage in meaningful conversations with their peers. However, we are aware of the challenges that sometimes arise in the process of developing and nurturing student conversations.

This chapter provides troubleshooting tips for teachers and then supplies administrators with the information and tools necessary to implement and sustain student-led discussions in every classroom throughout the school or district.

 

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