While we’re on the topic of talk (please see Jessica’s fantastic insights on discussion techniques that build confidence and community), I humbly piggyback off of yesterday’s post to bring you a few more talk ideas.
Rotating Symbol Discussion:
On Wednesday, I made reference to helping prepare my AP students for their test, by keeping our discussions focused on the real world. So…test prep as a natural byproduct to authentic discussion.
We were wrapping up our unit on Community, and I borrowed a discussion technique from my bestie Erin, that I have now fallen in love with. It was fast paced, kept kids engaged (as they not only participated in the moment, but had to be ready to get called into the conversation at any time), and really honed skills of building dialogue, as opposed to just reporting an idea around a circle.
Here’s how it goes:
Students enter the room and randomly receive a card with a symbol on it. I explained that the symbol would determine their small groups (4-5 people). Throughout the course of the class period, we used our essential question (What is the individual’s responsibility to the community?) to guide a discussion. I used PowerPoint slides to project a symbol and that group went to the front of the room to start talking. Other groups made notes on where they would take the conversation when they were called into the discussion.
On the next PowerPoint slide, I might add a group or switch out groups completely. Students spoke for 5-6 minutes at a time for single groups and 7-8 minutes if I had two groups up there.
Students reported that they liked hearing the ideas of the entire class. Often we do graded small group discussion one group at a time; this however, involved everyone.
From this discussion I heard some beautifully insightful comments:
- As the discussion expanded from one group, who was discussing the binding forces of similarity in communities, to include a new group of thinkers, Priyanka said, “Maybe a community shouldn’t only be about similarities. Similarities cause us to be more isolated than differences do.“
- Later, along that same theme of isolation, Dani shared that “social media makes it easy to isolate ourselves” as we discussed the communities we partake it through our phones. The group decided that social media lets users hide in a way that is detrimental to civil discourse.
- Alexis, in response to the idea that communities can be strengthened by tragedy, said that community is vital as it allows us to “come together for a common idea that can heal us.”
- Directly relating to the essential question, JJ suggested that when “all individuals put effort in, community succeeds.”
- Francesca was quiet until she raised her hand at the very end to say: “This unit was hard. In other units [education and gender] you could easily point the finger at other people. The problem is there’s. The problem is because of them. With community you had to speak to yourself. You had to realize that any problem within communities you belong to requires that you turn the finger around and point at yourself.“
Conversations can go online, as well. I asked my sophomores to extend our Transcendental Experience speeches (take two weeks and embrace a Transcendental tenant in their lives, then tell us about what they learned/liked/loathed by live tweeting after each speech and then responding to some of the insightful ideas from the speeches of their peers. Students reported that they loved seeing their ideas quoted and/or reframed as inspirational by their classmates. It gave me time to write down comments, which was helpful. We then had a phones down policy during the actual speeches.
My AP students will start their #langbreak experiences today as well. Their excitement to see each other’s tweets was palpable yesterday and one student even said, “Can I post something each day?”
Wait. Can you actively engage with experiences that promote self actualization and growth more than once over a break from school? Amen, Lisa says from her knees.
Speed Dating (again and again and again)
The last day before spring break, I had my students speed date the new books in the room. As Jessica mentioned yesterday, I LOVE conversations and the enthusiasm that occur with speed dating.
Students get to judge books by their covers or pick up titles they have heard about but never had in their hands.
They get to spend just a few minutes “getting to know” the book and then share their insights with their tablemates.
We then share out by having students raise up the books they are intrigued by. We chat around what hooked them and students write furiously on their “I Want to Read” lists.
The only danger of speed dating? Hook-ups. Students meet and fall in love with books they
want to take with them right away. It makes it hard to keep the pool of fresh titles, well, fresh. I LOVE having this problem.
Lisa Dennis teaches English and leads a department of incredible English educators at Franklin High School near Milwaukee. Her favorite student talk is the variety that keeps students talking long after the bell rings. Follow Lisa on Twitter @LDennibaum and follow her students’ AP Spring Break adventures on Twitter #langbreak.