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High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Great article and

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Great article and suggestions, Richard and everyone else. Thank you for sharing. I'd like to share a brief anecdote: I'm a big fan of class discussions, but I've always struggled engaging the whole class. There always seemed to be one or two students who wanted to say something, but never quite managed. Looking for a way to engage all of them, I tried using a twitter backchannel, projected on the board while we had the discussion, with a hashtag for what we were talking about. Suddenly, I had two discussions - the physical one, and the one taking place between students on computers/ tablets online. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the students who were often more quiet in class discussions often found their voice online.

High School English Teacher from Navajo Nation

We do Four Corners (Strongly

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We do Four Corners (Strongly Agree, Strongly Disagree, Agree, Disagree) for a subject and students go into one of the corners depending on what they think. Once there, they need to discuss and with their group members on their major points and be prepared to defend their position with examples. They are usually "controversial statements" like "We should only judge a person on the outside" or "Teenagers should be trusted more."

When I first started using this technique, I had to model the process for my students. Also, my class generated behaviors that we wanted to see. A lot of my students like to have these kinds of engagement activities, so we need to get everyone on the same page. I remind them that behaviors not on target tend to ruin the fun. It works well when I frame it like that.

If time is short, I just use two walls with Agree/Disagree and the middle of the wall for maybe. It's up to the teams to persuade other students to join them with their arguments.

I've used it as a way to generate background knowledge for a subject we are going to study or to prepare for argument essays. I've also used it at the end of class as a way for students to use evidence from the unit of study to inform their opinions.

Director, Graduate program in behavior disorder, David Yellin College

Hi Alireza, Thank you for

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Hi Alireza,

Thank you for your kind words. Solving the problem of students who don't seem to participate in discussions can be seen from two perspectives. The first is to develop or discover strategies designed to include all students. There must be hundreds of strategies like this and I know many of them. But eventually strategies will run out and the real problem has not been solved.The real question has two parts: 1) Are students participating even when they don't talk? 2) if not ,then why do they remain uninvolved? Many students talk a lot, but still aren't participating; others don't talk but are truly involved. Find out the level of involvement by asking the target students privately about the lesson and see if they show sufficient understanding to indicate if they are silently involved. If they do, accept it and let them continue the way they are most comfortable. If they show no understanding, then you need to find out why. Talk to other teachers, counselors, parents and others who know the students well enough to figure out why they are so uninvolved. Then talk with the students to see what they think. I think that having the knowledge from others in hand before talking with them works best, but talking to the students first can work well, too.

Understanding what the real issues are is better than using continuous strategies for involvement.

I wish you the best of luck,

Rick Curwin

English language teacher

Great ideas concerning group

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Great ideas concerning group discussion, I liked the card idea and using balls I think is a little bit becoming cliche and old fashioned, I find no reason. Although children might like it for the sheer fun of it.
The problem I have while discussing a topic I find it difficult to have all the group members participate. Can you suggest a mechanism so we can make all the group members talk. You mentioned some good tips under number four "Agreement" .My students express their feelings, I mean there should be a challenge in discussion not just everyone says what s(he) thinks and then we go to next student. What do you think?

Middle School Whether

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Middle School
Whether discussing a specific book the whole class read, or a different topic, students choose which book character they are going to answer for and give their answer through the lens of that characters perspective. Middle schoolers need to stretch to change their perspective but they enjoy the twist, they like turning over the ownership to their character, and they have the opportunity to think even more critically when they offer up why discussing their character answered the way they did.

Assisstance Professor of Education and Psychology

These are great ideas as

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These are great ideas as resources, but I also recommend to get some tips from the Philosophy for Children program. It is one of the main examples of how we may encourage critical thinking in the class.
More information, you may visit: http://www.montclair.edu/cehs/academics/centers-and-institutes/iapc/

Director, Graduate program in behavior disorder, David Yellin College

Thank you all for your ideas.

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Thank you all for your ideas. I totally support the idea that a great technique cannot help a useless topic. But the flip side is also true, a great topic can be made boring when students are not involved. I checked out the Socratic Dialogue information and found it impressive. So let's keep the ball rolling (pun intended) and hear some more suggestions.

Middle School Learning Coach

I have found student

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I have found student participation can be increased as well as the quality of participation in group discussions by using the strategy, "Socratic Circles." Check out the resource by Matt Copeland called "Socratic Circles: Fostering Critical and Creative Thinking in Middle and High School." Or check out teachingchannel.org and type in "Socratic Seminar" to watch a few video clips on the topic.

Early childhood teacher, writer, life-long learner

This are great ideas. I

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This are great ideas. I certainly used the pass the ball/bear/bee strategy in my year one classroom to ensure that only one person was speaking and the others were listening (hopefully) as they waited for their turn. I do like the idea of small group discussion and employed these frequently as it gives children a greater opportunity to share and allows those who may be reluctant to speak up in a large group to have a voice. I like the idea of the lightning rounds.

These are good activities for

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These are good activities for class. However if the students are not engaged in the topic under discussion no matter how fun the activities, they will not find them stimulating.

This means going back to the class and making sure you find out what subject they are interested in discussing. I'm talking about Needs Analysis, of course. The teacher needs to know for sure not only the level & goals of the class but also the kinds of subjects which the students will find interesting.

Following a Needs Analysis once with a new class in a new country, I discovered they were all utterly engrossed in a soap opera which I'd never seen. So I watched a few episodes and used the subject lines and characters from the soap as a basis for discussion.

The class were hooked!

So I would advise all teachers to use the ideas in this blog by all means, but also make sure that what you are discussing is of interest to the class. This is the most important aspect I feel.

Needs Analysis Explained: http://tinyurl.com/ojhao6g

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