Now that you have created the right environment for a discussion and you have planned a set of questions that will encourage student talk (see post- Dialogic Learning: Let’s Talk) the next important step is how to facilitate an on-going discussion. Put simply: How to avoid the tumble weed where no student speaks!
First of all be prepared for long silences. I have found students are silent for three reasons: firstly they do not have a clue what is going on, secondly they are gauging how long it will be before I give an answer or thirdly the students just can’t be bothered. This is why I have found it easier for the students to write down their views first (avoiding the first and third issues). So the only reason for students not to speak is they are waiting for someone else to start – including you. So just wait.
These are my top tips for a successful discussion:
- Remember student’s comments (write them down- be a discussion scribe) and use them later on in your explanation/ summary. E.g. As Luke highlighted the significance of miracles is based on the individual…
- Challenge student’s points – E.g. why do you think that, are you sure, what makes you come to that decision, expand, go on (good tool to stretch and challenge all students)
- If a student mentions a point that is significant for that part of the topic/ future learning – ask the class if they agree or disagree – take the discussion into the direction you wish.
- As the teacher you must respect ALL opinions (even if wrong – use these to encourage further discussion)
- Between student to student not student to teacher – flow
- Praise: thank you for your comments, very interesting, good point, clever idea, I didn’t see it like that,
- Teacher facilitates through body movement e.g. extension of hand to signal who is going to speak
- Make sure you are aware who has spoken and who wants to speak so no one is ignored