When starting a class discussion I am a big advocate for starting it digitally. Getting initial input on a digital platform gives every student, in particular the quiet students, a voice. Giving students a few minutes to thoughtfully consider their answer can elicit higher-quality responses.
There are many digital platforms to allow students to submit their answer to a discussion prompt. I tend to use a lot of Google tools but there are many excellent non-Google tools.
Desmos is a free tool! It is great for math teachers and non-math teachers. Obviously, as a math teacher, I like that it ALSO accommodates math symbols and not just text and pictures.
After signing into teacher.desmos.com click on “Custom Activities” on the side. In the upper right click on “New Activity.”
Use the “Note” block to provide the discussion prompt and the “Text Input” block to allow students to respond. You will have the option to see peer responses, however, it only shows the responses of 3 peers. The peer responses are not revealed until after they give their initial response.
Create a Google Form with a discussion prompt. Using a Google Form allows for the student’s initial answers to not be influenced by other students. Once the students have responded you can display the responses and use those to guide the conversation.
Creating a generic Google Form allows you to reuse the Form, have discussions on the fly, and have multiple discussion questions in a single setting. If you create a generic discussion Form provide the link in a material of Google Classroom. This way students can easily find the discussion link whenever you are conducting a discussion during class.
In this sample Google Form I used a “Paragraph style” question to prompt for the student response. I also asked for the students first and last name in separate questions. You may want to make your discussions anonymous and leave those two questions off.
I create a discussion topic on different tabs of the spreadsheet. The students click on the spreadsheet in Google Classroom and go to the first tab. Each student finds their own cell to respond in. I am then able to grab and regroup student comments to identify patterns in student responses. We use these responses to further the discussion. Using a spreadsheet allows every student’s comment to be shared with the entire class. Every student gets a voice.
Try my unauthorized Add-on for a template. Click Here for directions.
Go to the Next Tab
I will have set up several discussion topics in the same spreadsheet. After we discuss one question I announce “Go to the next tab!” and all the students start putting in their ideas on the next topic.
Not only does this give every student a voice, but there is a record of the discussion ideas. The spreadsheet can be referred back to. If the discussion is around brainstorming for a particular unit, say on MacBeth, then this crowdsourced document can be used as a resource by all of the students for them to write their MacBeth essay. I love how students continue to add to the spreadsheet as we discuss the topic verbally. This acts as a place to take collaborative notes.
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