Friday, October 2, 2015

Scored Discussions

A scored discussion is a strategy that I first saw in an upper elementary classroom that I thought I could adapt to my language classroom. Students were in a circle discussing a book that they had read and other students were recording notes about who was doing various activities throughout the discussion.
It is my goal to strengthen conversation skills with my students this year so today we tried our first scored discussion. I really like how it pushes teamwork, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and circumlocution while empowering the group as a whole.

Students took turns communicating and recording. They were in groups of four so one student was recording while the other students were conversing about the topic at hand. The recorder had the "grading sheet". S/he filled out the top part of the graph while the students were talking, tallying how many comments and questions were made (positively affected grade) and how many times English was used in the conversation (negatively affecting the grade). After the allotted time was completed, the recorder then completed the bottom part of the sheet, noting if each communicator paid attention, made insults, and if necessary invited quiet students into the conversation. These were all completely the opinion of the reporter. Before turning in the sheet, the reporter signs his/her name.

For the most part, students are honest with the marking and try to do his/her best in noting the behavior of the speakers. However, today I had one group totally obsessed with points, putting extra emphasis on who was using English (good problem, right?) to the point of distracting the conversation. It was becoming evident quickly that the recorder was getting quite stressed. I finally walked over the group, opened the recorder's backpack to get her laptop, opened it and used it as a visual block to the other students. They got the message that it was more important to communicate than what was being marked. It was also important that the recorder be able to tally without stress of hard feelings with group members. I mention this only because sometimes student get a little too competitive with this and you may have to intervene.

Students used the following conversation topics. For each change of topic there was also a change in recorders. As you can tell there is the theme of discussing the future tense during this particular scored discussion and what their lives will be like in the future.

As a "guide on the side" in this activity, it was great to hear how students were negotiating meaning, using circumlocution to get their message across when they didn't know a word, and collaborating to help each other out while maintaining the target language. For a group of students who were ultra hesitant to say anything 5 weeks ago, this is a huge step forward! They all were able to feel success today in their language abilities.

What other discussion strategies do you use in your classroom?

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