This activity is intended to help students with a skill that is crucial to discussion -- listening carefully. Gene Stanford provides a persuasive argument that students need to be trained in discussion skills.
To be done early in the year, as a way of preparing for group discussion work. It can be timed to coincide with a controversial topic related to the reading.
Choose a topic that is likely to spark some controversy among students -- abortion, perhaps, or a new rule in school or some event in the community. Tell students they will be discussing the topic in groups of four or five. Create the groups yourself, assuring a mix of students.
Before students get into groups, explain the discussion rules: (1) everyone must contribute an opinion, one person speaking at a time with no interruptions; (2) you will name the person who goes first; (3) before the next person can speak, he or she must summarize the remarks of the person who just spoke; (4) only after the previous speaker agrees that the summary is reasonably accurate can the next person speak; (5) proceed this way until everyone has had a turn speaking; (6) after all have spoken, anyone can speak, but the same rule about summarizing applies. Groups have fifteen minutes to discuss. You will need to monitor the groups to ensure that they are following the rules.
When time is up, have students remain in groups while you ask questions of the whole class. How did you feel about the rules? Did they slow things down? Was the discussion frustrating? Was it difficult to summarize? Do you feel that you know what other people thought about the topic? Do you feel that you are good listeners?____________________