Guaranteed Active Whole-Class Discussions (First Technique: Responding to Others)

Discussion responding

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.) 

During a whole-class discussion, one of the students, Santos, made a comment.

Then Mai said, “I’d like to ask Santos a question …”

Then Lan gave her opinion, and Camilo replied, “Lan said something very interesting …

These students were employing a discussion technique “Responding to Others,” which had taken just 10 minutes for them to pick up.

The concept of whole-class discussions can be an alien one to students from non-Western countries. Students are told that participation in class discussions is expected in Western academic settings and that if they are active participants, it can affect their grade in a positive way. Nevertheless, these students don’t know what “active participation” means, other than to state one’s opinion.  For instructors preparing students for mainstream, academic coursework, the techniques introduced in these next postings could help students develop five specific techniques that they can apply to be active.  

                                  Five Techniques
Responding to another student’s comment
Volunteering an answer
Redirecting a question when you don’t know what to say
Reporting what someone else has said
Summarizing what other group members have said

An additional benefit to those students who employ these is that their classmates will feel good about them and future instructors will be impressed.  For research about this, see  Want Your Students to Seem More Likeable? Research Says: Teach Them Follow-up Questions

The first technique and handout is explained below:

The handout is composed of two pages: HO Whole class Technique 1 Responding

Page 1 is the Students’ handout which introduces the first technique “Responding to another student’s comment.”  Also, it includes eight commonly used expressions for doing this.  For example:

  • I had a similar experience.
  • I’d like to say something about that …
  • I think that he/she made a good point. I think . . .

Page 2 is the Teacher’s Script.  This has two exercises:

Exercise 1: General-Topic Questions.  The teacher reads one of the questions (e.g. “Which do you prefer: talking on the phone, sending an email or sending a text message?”)  He/She chooses as student to answer and then a different student to respond.

Exercise 2: The teacher asks discussion questions about a reading passage.  In this handout, you will notice the questions are about the first unit in Cultural Differences.  However, these can easily be changed to discuss a different reading passage that you would like your students to discuss whole class.

The next posting will be about the next technique: Volunteering an answer

If you are curious about Cultural Difference that is in part of the handout above, see this link for a sample. Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview)

David Kehe

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