Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 2)

Akiyo Noguchi and Anna Stöhr during the semifinals at the IFSC Boulder Worldcup Vienna 2010

Listen and summarize

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

Most of us have had experience like this with an ESL student: Someone is talking for a half a minute or more, and the student is just looking at the person.  When the person stops, the student just nods his/her head.  The speaker isn’t sure if the student really understood. 

There is a technique which students, both the listener and speaker, can uses in conversations to avoid that type of situation.

The technique expands on the one introduced in Part 1. Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 1) Instead of asking a clarification after each paragraph, in this one, the listener summarizes in one sentence what s/he thinks was said.

By doing this, the speaker is able to feel confident that s/he is being understood correctly and the listener can confirm his/her understanding.

Just as with the technique introduced in Part 1, after students have used the two attached handout-activities, they usually find the technique to be a “tool” that they can use not only in group discussions but also when interacting with teachers and others outside the classroom.

A brief summary of the two activities attached

Activity 1 Discussion technique_Clarifying by summarizing I Students AB

The bases of the discussions are true news stories.  Activity 1 provides a model.  The students practice summarizing in controlled exercises.

Activity 2 Discussion technique_Clarify by summarizing II

In Activity 2, the students practice the technique in structured but less-controlled exercises.

Needless to say, we don’t normally make a summary statement after every paragraph that someone says.  Students understand this.  And they realize that these exercises are meant to help them develop this technique, which they’ll be able to use in a variety of situation.


To see a short YouTube talk by an instructor who has used this material, see YouTube talk about Discussion Strategies

David Kehe

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