Tuesday is my favorite day of the week.  First of all because it’s not Monday :-), but mostly because it is the day I get to chat with my #worldgeochat PLN.  The geographers, historians, literature teachers, parents, instructional coaches, non-profit and education institutions that join us each week feed my desire to be better at the profession I love.  The dedication of those that join us each week inspire me in ways I didn’t even know I needed.  They push me and teach me.  It is by far the best hour of my week.

Our chat topic this week was on discussion strategies and as the hour progressed, I began to see this was no ordinary #worldgeochat.  Class discussions are a HUGE part of geography instruction, but what I noticed about this chat, was we all have our own “bag or tricks” we use for discussions.   Some like Socratic Seminars and Chalk Talk shared by multiple participants are old friends, but other were new ideas.

Tough Choices activities and The World In a Room strategy shared by Bill Chapman (@classroomtools) are designed to encourage a variety of discussion topics among many students.  Matt Shomaker (@TheShoe_CMS) shared Socratic Smackdown with us, which takes Socratic Seminars to a whole ‘nother level.  I participated in a Socratic Smackdown as part of a Professional Development training and it was a hoot!


As I reviewed the chat archive (found here), the two questions that triggered the most conversation were about how to prepare students for class discussions and the holy grail of discussions – -getting all students to participate.  In general we agreed that prepared students participate more.  @kylesprague95  suggested having students come to class with prepared answers to a few questions to aid in the beginning of the discussion, while allowing students to Think-Pair-Share in small groups to build confidence works for students in @GeoJo22‘s classes.  @Scottmpetri shared a link to a Civil Conversation lesson on the Syrian Refugee Crisis.  I had not heard of this strategy, but I can’t wait to try it in my classroom.  It both prepares students for content and norms for discussions.

Getting more participation from students brought out so many great ideas!  Some of my favorites shared were  –

  — Have you tried using a prop…like a fake microphone? Only someone w/ the prop can add to the discussion & everyone must participate.
 – use non-verbal hand signals for “I agree” + “I object” helps the Ts see engagement + if all Ss are following the conversation
  I do fishbowls so the students who don’t like to speak can write down their response to the class discussion and stay engaged
   I’ve given Ss 3 poker chips. Each time they talk, they pay. While it doesn’t encourage quiet ones, it limits the talkers.

@chuckeba and @storiestoldinsf recommend using sentence starters or sentence stems to encourage participation.
@storiestoldinsf linked to a Trace the Conversation Chart that helps the teacher track the follow of the conversation
I learn about more apps and tech stuff from #worldgeochat and last night was no different.  I’m excited to try out Today’s Meet, Zoom, and Verso, all recommended during Tuesday night’s chat.  If you are looking for a way to pump up your discussion with technology, give these a try.  I know I’m going to incorporate Today’s Meet into my next Socratic Seminar.
What did you take away from Tuesday’s chat?  We’d love to hear what you found useful.



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