Strategies to model a "good" discussion for middle students has been on my mind a lot lately because it skill I would like to help my students improve upon. I use Think-Pair-Share often, many times our Question of the Day might have something to do with a concept that will be coming up in class so students have a chance to prepare an answer, and many times I have them jot down ideas, observations, etc. as they are working through an activity or lab.
We also spend time practicing raising hands and listening to others. I often have a general plan for what questions I'm looking to ask and other things that may build off from that. I know that wait time is important for developing expectations as well.
I would like to better encourage students to one, willingly participate and add to what others say in a respectful manner. I obviously don't intend for them to sit and discuss the whole period, but to have even 5-10 quality minutes in which students are engaged in the process and don't drop out of it because communicating is "boring" would be awesome and likely powerful for them.
The above is essentially what I sent out to a NSTA listserv. I was pleased to receive many replies, and I am excited to try out some of these ideas in the classroom next year. I'm going to give an outline of some of the responses I received:
1. Inquiry Circles in Action: Comprehension and Collaboration by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels. The topic that students are discussing will be at the top of a page, then students initial the page. They each take turns responding to the topic and then they take a turn responding to the responses of the group members. During this process there isn't talking.
2. Popsicle Sticks: Students' names are written on popsicle sticks and the name you pull will respond. The person who sent this strategy suggested also putting a smaller bowl within the bowl and have the names of the students you really want to target for that lesson. I think this strategy can be achieved in a number of ways and I definitely think it fits in with the method of "cold calling" that is described in Teach Like a Champion .
3. Harkness (or discussion) Circle. Students sit in chairs in a circle facing each other. The teacher poses an open-ended question and students talk to each other to answer. The teacher draws a on a piece of paper and the students (I think) draw lines between people as they contribute to the conversation. If everyone participates, what's on the paper will look like a spider web.
4. "Scientific Argumentation in Biology: 30 Classroom Activities" describes not just the activities but the structures of the arguments and strategies to support students in your class to productively discuss their ideas. The "model" is described in the beginning of the book and the activities provide examples to apply this.
5. The 2013 summer issues of Science Scope will focus on classroom discussion and argumentation. Also, in Science & Children summer 2012 issue there is a focus on this topic.
6. Table Texting: Check out this on Pinterest. This is a strategy that uses HOTS among students. Students respond to the question in writing. Their responses are exchanged with other students and students reply to the other responses.
7. Students were paired up and sat facing each other. The timer was set for 2 minutes. One student was designated as the first speaker while the other was only allowed to listen. The teacher asks the students to explain what they learned in the lesson today. After the 2 minutes, the partner had to repeat back what they heard the first student say, using prompts such as "I heard you say you know...", "I don't know what you meant when you said...", "I think you think.... because you said...". They get 2 minutes to share what they heard. Then they switch roles trying to add on to what the first speaker said or correcting what they don't agree with. This time the first speaker is the listener and has to do the repeat back.
8. Website: tools4teachingscience.org is a set of resources on how to create class discussion that will lead to learning. It was suggested to start with the Discourse Primer. There are a number of useful video clips and other resources.
9. Snowball Fight and variation: Students write some sort of response on a piece of paper and throw it in the room. Students have to pick up the papers and respond to what they read. The variation on this is to have them throw these (snowballs or other object of flight) into a box. The students grab one and have to share what is written.