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The Teacher's Guide to Leading Student-Centered Discussions
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The Teacher's Guide to Leading Student-Centered Discussions
Talking About Texts in the Classroom



April 2006 | 136 pages | Corwin
This book is written for those who value collaborative inquiry, open-ended questions, and student-centered classroom discourse. Leading student-centered discussions is natural for some people and not-so-natural for others. The teacher's role is more than following a set protocol or asking a series of questions. Like much of teaching, leading a discussion falls somewhere between science, art, and magic as the facilitator faces a constant stream of decisions based on ever-changing student behavior.

This book is a model for text-based discussions and provides a framework to make decisions that lead to student-centered conversations focused on the understanding of ideas. The book is divided into three sections. The first is for teachers new to student-centered discussions and describes the "science" of leading a discussion: the basic elements of student-centered, text-based discussions, and how to plan for them. The second delves into the "art" and "magic" of leading discussions and provides a framework for making decisions during discussions as the conversation develops. The third section offers a rich collection of strategies for problem-solving when discussions aren't going well and to guide the reader toward continuous improvement of facilitation skills. The book's decision-making framework stresses safety, authentic participation, challenge, and ownership, all of which will help teachers move from a basic level of understanding of discussion facilitation skills to a deepened understanding of the discussion process and the teacher's role within it.

 
Preface
 
Acknowledgments
 
About the Authors
 
Part I: Getting Started: The "Science" of Leading Discussions
 
1. The Fundamentals of Facilitating
Why Have Student Centered Discussions?

 
Essential Ingredients of a Student-Centered, Text-based Discussion, aka “Seminar”

 
The Architecture of a Discussion

 
Frequently Asked Questions and Tips for Beginners

 
Tips for Beginners

 
References

 
 
PART II: Becoming a Skillful Facilitator: The “Art and Magic” of Leading Discussions
 
2. Safety
Recognizing Safety Issues

 
Tone of the Discussion

 
Atmosphere of Safety and Respect

 
Creating a Culture of Inquiry

 
The Danger of Sarcasm

 
Feedback During Seminar

 
A Climate of Respect

 
 
3. Authentic Participation
Recognizing Authentic Participation Issues

 
Attention-Seeking Participation

 
Text-Focused Participation

 
Reflective Activity

 
Assessing Pauses in Conversation

 
Facilitator is Not the Focus

 
 
4. Challenge
Recognizing Challenge Issues

 
Assessing Understanding

 
Off-Topic Conversation

 
Repetitive Ideas and Statements

 
Idea-Hopping

 
Challenging Ideas

 
 
5. Ownership
Recognizing Ownership Issues

 
Avoiding Anarchy

 
Facilitator Releasing Control

 
Student-Driven Discussions

 
 
6. The Seminar Decision-Making Model
Steps of the Decision-Making Process

 
Identifying the Issue

 
Identifying Possible Causes

 
Match to Primary Fulcrum

 
Identifying and Applying Possible Strategies

 
Determine Effectiveness of Strategy and Next Steps

 
 
PART III: Improving Student-Centered Discussions
 
7. Strategies for Ongoing Improvement Across All the Fulcrums
Reflection

 
Seminar Mapping

 
Teaching the Fulcrums to Students

 
Fishbowl

 
Seminar Folders

 
Videotape

 
 
Assessment
Peer Planning

 
Peer Coaching

 
Case Study

 
 
8. Strategies for Improving Specific Fulcrums
Safety

 
Seminar Ground Rules

 
Assigned Seats

 
Yellow Card, Red Card

 
Ejection

 
Time-out

 
Write Before You Talk

 
Role Play

 
Stop and Try Again

 
Building Safety Outside Seminar

 
Role Play

 
Have Seminars More Frequently

 
Ask The Students

 
Authentic Participation

 
Heads-Up Question

 
Pair-Share

 
Round Robin

 
Inviting Quiet People to Speak

 
Reflective Writing

 
Follow-up Writing

 
Positive Reinforcement

 
Connections

 
Question Again

 
Pair Share/Write During Seminar

 
Silence

 
Map Connections

 
Challenge

 
Where in the Text?

 
Ask Follow-Up Questions

 
Paraphrase and Probe

 
Pair-Share/Write during Seminar

 
Pre-Seminar

 
Choosing a Different Type of Text

 
Good Questions

 
Ownership

 
Relinquish the Reins

 
Self-assessment

 
Wait Time

 
Favorite Text Phenomenon

 
Eye Contact

 
Don’t Be Afraid—Drive

 
Turn-Taking

 
Look Around the Circle

 
 
Resource A – Training Guides
Using the Fulcrums for Professional Development

 
Working with Groups of Teachers

 
New Facilitators

 
Experienced Facilitators

 
Working on Your Own/Working with Individual Teachers

 
Individual Teachers

 
 
Resource B – Reproducibles
 
Index

"Practical and beneficial to teaching and learning in today's world ...the book provides good strategies for helping teachers facilitate meaningful academic discussions in the classroom setting."

Sylvia Jackson
Principal, Adolfo Camarillo High School, Camarillo, CA

"There is a great deal of relevant, practical information in this book for teachers to use to improve the quality of seminars." 

Cynthia Passmore
Assistant Professor, Science Education, School of Education, University of California, Davis

"A teacher can take this text and learn to facilitate a seminar. The examples are very useful and after some practice, I believe I too could manage a seminar discussion successfully."

Eric Kincaid
Science Teacher, Morgantown High School, Morgantown, WV

"I loved the case stories/examples of classroom seminars/discussions that illustrated the author's points...I was able to relate to many of the problems that some of the teachers faced in their seminars...The book will make a distinct contribution to the field."

Kimberly C. Smith
Advanced Math Teacher/Math Department Chair, Welborn Middle School, High Point, NC

"There are two reasons why this book is so important now. The first is the vitality of the subject: true classroom dialogue may be our only hope for helping our students become civil as well as thoughtful citizens. The second is that the authors practice what they preach. They assume from the first page that teachers themselves are thoughtful professionals, capable of making the subtle decisions discussed in these pages. The result is a book that should lie open on the desk of any teacher who is truly interested in teaching students to think."

Terry Roberts, Director
National Paideia Center

"As a teacher and teacher educator, I have led hundreds of student-centered discussions and in reading this book I discovered new ideas and strategies that will help me improve the quality of my own classroom discussions. I believe there are strategies in this book for all teachers, novice to expert."

Jennifer R. Mangrum, Coordinator of Elementary Education Initiative
North Carolina State University

"A strong student-centered discussion is a teacher's dream - a classroom of students energized by intellectual exchange. That's why Hale and City's book is such a gift. This book is packed with strategies for facilitating great discussions. Whether you are new to student-centered discussions or an old-pro, their book will help you think strategically about how to take your classroom to the next level."

Eric Westendorf, Founding Director
The National Teaching Academy

"I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to teach students to improve their listening, critical thinking, social, or college success skills."

Jennifer Lerner, Northern Virginia Community College
NACADA Journal, Spring 2007

Sample Materials & Chapters

Preface

Chapter 1


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