Using Sentence Stems and Explicit Instruction for Classroom Discussions
Teaching discussion skills can be daunting! You know you want productive, positive discussions… but how do you get there? Here’s some of what works for me!
- Body Language & Politeness Matter
- Eye Contact: looking directly at the speaker lets them know they have your attention
- Inviting Posture: Facing your body toward the speaker with an open posture invites them to share. Avoid crossed arms if you can!
- Use your group member’s name when addressing them.
Ex. “Dan, can you tell me more about what you thought the author meant by…”
2. Paraphrasing lets the speaker know you have listened and understand.
- In other words,
- …It sounds like…
- There are some key points you’re bringing up…
- From what you’re saying,…
3. Clarifying lets the speaker know you have listened but do not fully understand.
- Would you tell me a little more about…?
- Let me see if I understand…
- Can you tell me more about…
- It would help me understand if you’d give me an example of…
- So, are you saying/suggesting…?
- What do you mean by…?
- How are you feeling about…?
Let students collect data on their use of these important behaviors! Encouraging them to formally reflect on their performance after each and every discussion instills in them the importance this work.
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