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 will elicit higher quality responses.
There are many digital platforms to allow students to submit their answer to a discussion prompt. My favorites are Google Forms and Google Sheets spreadsheets.
Create a Google Form with a discussion prompt and provide the link in Google Classroom. Using a Google Form allows for the students 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 to have multiple discussion questions in a single setting. If you create a generic discussion Form provide the link in the “About” tab 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. You may want to make your discussions anonymous and leave those two questions off. To use this template, you will need to use the File menu to make a copy.
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 students comment to be shared with the entire class. Every student gets a voice.
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.
I created a template for spreadsheet discussions. Click here to create a copy of the spreadsheet template. On the first tab create a list of discussion topics in column A. Click on the button I created to automatically create a tab for each discussion topic. Once the tabs are created delete the first tab.
In Google Classroom attach the spreadsheet you just created into an assignment as “Students can edit file.”