SIOP Feature #16: Provide frequent opportunities for interaction and discussion
Notice there are two parts to this feature. The first suggests that teachers need to maximize opportunities to interact and discuss with the students. The second suggests the teacher encourage students to think critically by exploring concepts and providing more than just one-word answers. The inclusion of discussion time provides the teacher with the opportunity to connect with students and to assess their thinking in a formative manner. In fact, even more powerful than teacher-student discussions are student-student dicussions. They still provide teachers with opportunities for assessment (perhaps even more so), and the increase the number of opportunities the students have to share with one another. This, afterall, is what most students crave.
Strategies to promote academic discussion
So, the question is not, "should I give my students a chance to discuss things?" The question is, "how should I structure discussions so that students get the most (academically) out of them?" Here are three tips on making sure the discussion is worth it:
- Teach students how to have a discussion: It may sound funny, but most students probably aren't used to discussing things academically. Showing them what an academic discussion looks like can help students understand how the activity is framed and why. Watch a video, watch you do it, or even watch some of their peers do it through a fishbowl activity.
- Use academic language: Write key words on the board and encourage students to use them. Give students language shells (sentence stems) to help them put the language into a frame. Model how they are used. A list without a model rarerly works. Students need to see how things are used in context in order to feel safe.
- Be specific about expectations: Students need to know the expectations. If you want them to talk, you can boost the chances of this happening by telling students - "In order to pass this discussion, you need to share 3 points, ask 1 question, and restate 1 person's response"