I am a steadfast believer that the best classroom management technique is the creation of a classroom environment were students know how to communicate effectively. You cannot hope to have successful small group or classroom discussions if students do not feel safe to express themselves in a space where they know their ideas, feelings, and opinions will be respected.
Unfortunately, most students do not have effective communication modeled for them not just in their educational past, but at home, with their peers, and in the media. So how can you begin to teach effective group discussion with your students?
The first thing is to have an open dialogue with students about effective and ineffective communication. This dialogue can’t just start once there are issues part way through the school year, but should be explored during the first week of school.
- Ask students to share past experiences and their feelings surrounding group work, when have they felt that their opinions weren’t respected? Did it affect how much/little they shared? Do they think it affected their learning?
- Explain that it is possible to disagree with someone, or to give critical feedback, while still respecting the other person’s beliefs and emotions. Remind students that it can be okay to “agree to disagree”, and that part of learning is being able to consider issues from another’s perspective and respecting that they have their own beliefs, without having to give up your own.
- As a class, brainstorm some examples of effective and ineffective language. For example: “I disagree with Elliot because…” vs. “No Elliot, you’re so wrong”.
- Come up with an acronym or other system to remind students of effective group communication. I came up with the TALK method (Trust, Appreciate, Listen, Be Kind).
- As a class come up with a ‘reminder phrase’ that students can use to take a break and get back on track if they feel discussions are becoming ineffective. For example, “I think we need to take a breather”.
This is just a start, and effective group discussion is a skill that should be touched upon throughout the school year. I am passionate about this topic, and have created a variety of resources that you can use with your students to teach effective group communication.
Use these four interactive notebook components to explore the concept of effective group discussion with students.
The first note allows students to explore how they want to be treated by others in a group discussion, and what they need to give in return. The second has them brainstorm encouraging vs discouraging words when providing feedback to others. In the third note students decide wether statements are an example of effective or ineffective communication, and and in the final note they brainstorm statements they can use to agree, disagree, ask for clarification, and more.
The perfect lesson for the beginning of the school year to introduce effective group discussion. Students learn about effective communication by comparing a group discussion scenario written two different ways. In the first example, the characters do not demonstrate effective communication. Students analyze the passage to see where more effective communication could be used. They then read the second example to see how the discussion could have been improved. For both passages, students reflect on how the discussion would make each character feel.
After this introduction, students brainstorm how they would personally like to be treated during group discussions. This leads to the introduction of the TALK method (Trust, Appreciate, Listen, Be Kind), in the form of a foldable note. Students use the knowledge they have gained to debate a topic in a small group, and reflect on their group dynamics and communication.
Use a sentence frame fan to support clear and respectful student communication during group discussions.
Each category includes five sentence frame prompts. Students can use the sentence frames to create responses that promote effective classroom discussions.
In this activity students read examples and decide whether they demonstrate effective or ineffective communication. This is a great activity to use for SCOOT and to introduce effective group discussion to students.
If you like the sound of all of these resources you can also buy them as a bundle for a discounted price!
How do you promote effective group discussion in your classroom? Let me know in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org