Skip to main content

Shabazz City High School : Discussion Group Strategies

Jigsaw

Jigsaw

In the Jigsaw, students are asked to be experts for their particular topic. Students begin in small groups, learn the material for which they will be the expert, and then split-up to teach the rest of the class. For example, in a Cellular Biology course, the initial groups may be created based on parts of the cell: nucleus, mitochondria, cell membrane, endoplasmic reticulum, and golgi apparatus.  After students learn about their part of the cell, they will break up into new groups, with one member from each cell part represented. The students will then teach the others about what they learned.  Jigsaws are effective strategies because they require students to be accountable for learning the material, encourage active listening, foster collaboration and are student-centered.

TAG Review

TAG Review

In a TAG Review, students engage in discussion via post-it notes.  It can also be used as a peer-review/assessment strategy. Whatever the purpose, student work is posted on the walls in the room. Each student is then given a stack of post-it notes. They silently circulate through the room, view and evaluate the material, and then comment in some way. Using the TAG acronym is most useful for evaluation: T-Tell Something the like, A-Ask a Question, or G-Give a positive Suggestion. Instructors could also use this strategy as a discussion method in which students post individual answers to the teacher-posted question, post comments or replies to what others have written, or ask a follow-up question. This strategy is useful for learners who do not always engage in verbal discussions and feel more comfortable with anonymous posting. It also builds a collaborative environment because individuals are posting to others and constructing the conversation. Finally, it is useful because it is kinesthetic.

Definition Four Square

Four-Square

Definition Four-Square is useful when teaching new vocabulary or trying to explain abstract concepts. As depicted above, students will divide their paper into four squares with a small square in the middle for the vocabulary word. Each box has a different purpose: Upper-Left is image. Students will draw a symbol or other visual representation of the word to convey its meaning. The Upper-Right quardrant is for personal definition. The Lower-Left is where students will brainstorm as many synonyms or word-associations as they can to put the vocabulary word in context. Finally the Lower-Right contains the original sentence or use of the word in a sentence to show its grammatical position. The components of each square can be altered to suit your needs. Some alternatives include: examples, non-examples, famous quotes with the word in it. You could also use the four-square method with character, setting, or mood analysis in a literature class. You can ask students to complete the four-square individually or in small-groups. This strategy is useful because it incorporates multiple learning styles and asks learners to conceptualize the term in a multi-faceted way, drawing upon students' multiple intelligence.

List - Group - Label

List - Group - Label

List - Group - Label is effective for generating background knowledge or reviewing a complex reading or unit of study. It begins with the instructor selecting a major concept. Students then individually brainstorm as many related terms/concepts as they can. After a few minutes of time, individuals are grouped together and share their lists. Their collective lists then need to be combined into a group list. After they create the group list, they are then asked to create category labels in which to place each of the words. Through this process they are activating prior knowledge, critically evaluating the information that they have created. It is a bottom-up method that focuses on what students bring to the table. They have autonomy to determine the major themes and categories that connect their ideas.

Rotating Tables

Rotating Tables

Rotating Tables is a useful strategy to use when you want the entire class to answer a series of discussion questions. On each table, the instructor will post a piece of butcher paper with the question written at the top. Each table will have a different question. After the class has divided up into small groups (3-5 students) they will go to one of the tables, read the question, and brainstorm their response on the paper.  After 2-3 minutes of time, the groups will rotate to a new table and proceed to answer the new question. After each group has visited every table, they will share with the whole class what has been brainstormed at their current table. This strategy is effective because it forces students to stretch their ideas because they cannot repeat anything that has already been written on the paper.  The movement between questions also refocuses and reenergizes learners. 

What? So What? Now What?

quesiton mark

What? So What? Now What? is a discussion strategy best suited for articles that present qualitative or empirical studies.  Generally, these types of articles tend to be longer and more complex than what high school students are used to reading, so diving them into small groups of 3-4 students per group is helpful for support. Give each group a piece of butcher paper and markers for note-taking, and ask them to divide their paper into three sections: What? So What? and Now What? Then they will review the article and consider the three components. The What? component should be descriptive, answering the questions: Who was involved? How was the information gathered? What was the conclusion? The So What? is the interpretive piece, gathering information regarding interpretation or feelings and answering these questions: What implications do the conclusions have for the parties involved? What was your reaction to the study and its conclusion? Was the study skewed or could it have been conducted in a different way to garner different results? Finally, the Now What? is intended to be a space for considering contextual applications or future goals and actions, answering: What can be done with the knowledge gained from this study? It is easy for student to blend the So What? and Now What? together, so be sure to emphasize the differences between those two categories.