DISCUSSION FORUM: How to stimulate classroom discussion and classroom community

What are some ways you get a reticent classroom engaged? What are some ways you get reticent students engaged? What are some ways you foster classroom community?

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6 thoughts on “DISCUSSION FORUM: How to stimulate classroom discussion and classroom community

  1. Andrew Stone

    – Writing exercises related to the topic of discussion, to then be discussed in groups. Afterwards, sharing the groups discussion with the whole class. Generally, the more exciting or weird the exercise, the better the discussion.
    – Reading short passages on the projector, as a class, and talking freely about them has worked for me recently. We read a George Saunders essay on the writing process, and they got really into it, partially bc he curses, and partially bc it’s just entertaining material.
    – They got really excited to share their opinions *about* certain of the theoretical readings and their reading process, as opposed to responding to the ideas from the reading. They tend to be excited to share how they felt about something. Which reminds me, asking leading questions that at least gets them to nod yes or no can open some doors. If you see a student nodding or shaking their head, then they likely have something in mind and something to say.
    – Using the immediate classroom as a subject of discussion, or getting them to share recent stories or experiences, or just using some free time to get to know each other, sharing details about life, personal opinions – i think they respond when someone starts opening up a bit. Not in the vulnerable sense, but just in the “hey I’m a person I have a life beyond school” sense.
    -Doing something as simple as, “so what did y’all think about that exercise/peer review/etc.?” has gotten them engaged.

  2. Amber Slater

    – I have my students work in small groups regularly to discuss readings/course concepts. I sit with groups and listen in/discuss. When students who are usually quieter in whole-class discussion say something interesting, I’ll tell them that I like what they said and ask if they will share with the whole class later. Then, when we move from small groups to whole-class, I’ll ask that person to repeat what they said.
    -We use the OpenLab discussion board to respond to readings. I’ll project students’ discussion board posts and get students to summarize or read what they wrote to the class.
    – I haven’t gotten it together to try this yet, but I want to use an online whiteboard where I post a question or prompt and then students use their phones to submit a response. All of the student responses pop up on the online whiteboard, and then we can use that as a springboard for discussion. That way everyone has had time to write and think through a response, and hopefully, they feel more comfortable saying more out loud. Has anyone used online whiteboards? Here’s a link about them: https://zapier.com/blog/best-online-whiteboard/

  3. Charlotte Deaver

    Here, here for small groups! With focused and (interesting enough) learning objectives. The discourse communities and genre units are proving more engaging than the literacy narrative, and I think that’s because the way I framed the literacy narrative assignment was basically as a personal narrative, with not enough pre-writing, brainstorming and discussion about *their* individual literacy histories–the *what* of the narrative, rather than the qualities that make a good narrative essay (that I’m kind of wedded to, I am noticing). And the readings focused on language diversity, rather than model their own narratives.

  4. Tricia C. Clarke

    – To get a classroom engaged, I find it helps to create, intentionally, opportunities for students to talk to each other about the topic at hand. I find the process of having students first write down their thoughts, then share with a peer (peer-share), then ask for a whole-class share, where students can share their own thoughts or that of their peer to work. Added to this process is to check in with students individually, read what they have written, find something interesting to say about it, and ask them if they would like to share with the whole class. The process of writing down one’s ideas first, then sharing with one other person, only, gives students more confidence to engage in a whole-class discussion, which leads to a more engaged classroom. Asking multiple students, individually, to share encourages more students to speak during the whole-class share.
    – Another way I have found to get a reticent classroom engaged is to name the discussion in a way that connects with terms with which they are already familiar. For example, during a lesson on the rhetoric situation, I asked students to write down an example then asked them to share with someone else during “our Rhetoric Situation Mingle” that was at another end of the classroom from side to side and from the back of the room to the front. We did this for a few rounds (3) where I would say “Switch” to get them to move to someone else.
    – The “Save the Last Word for Me” text discussion protocol is another helpful way to get a classroom engaged (http://www.schoolreforminitiative.org/doc/save_last_word.pdf). I used this protocol during each of our readings for Unit 1. Students met in groups of 3 or 4 (sometimes I create the groups beforehand, sometimes I don’t). Students gave positive feedback about the experience.

    – For reticent students, I pair them with someone else in the class who I know will encourage them to participate; I meet with them one-to-one to understand the reason for their reticence; or I give them the space to deal with whatever it is they’re facing (could be a situation outside of class) and check in with them at the next class. Lately, when this has happened, I emailed the student about it, asking to meet with me. While they didn’t respond to my email, at the next class they showed improvement.

    I have found the following to have helped in my classroom:
    – Intentionally creating pairs or small groups that are switched around for different activities;
    – Creating activities that allow students to engage with each other (including some of the examples above);
    – Changing the classroom seating so that students don’t all face the front of the room;
    – Meeting with students one-to-one to address observations about their difficulties or challenges, which helps to make them feel seen and heard;
    – Learning students’ names.

    1. Ian Ross Singleton

      I have found that small group work does exceptionally well. I also was very happy to witness how a perhaps overly active student was able to explain what a discourse community was to a very inactive student by using the community involved with the extremely overpriced Supreme clothing company. It immediately clicked with a student with whom I was having a lot of difficulty explaining. Peer-to-peer learning has been very helpful, and it has also helped to deal with students who can be more active than necessary and, as a result, become disruptive or interfere with engagement of other students.

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