An engaging discussion is the bread and butter of many of my lessons. Whether the verbal exchange ends up being an engaging one or not depends to a large extent on the mood and energy of the students themselves. Naturally, the way the groups are set up might have a significant impact on the quality of the discussion. If you’re used to the tried and tested “here are the questions now let’s talk about them in groups”, here are six ways to spice up your group discussions.
Individually, Group, Class (IGC)
Let the students ponder the questions individually for a couple of minutes. Next, put them in groups and let them share their thoughts. Wrap up by asking each group to summarise the discussion in front of the whole group.
Take a page from The Lord of The Flies, and have the students sit in a circle. Send an object around the group. The student holding the object (or conch, if you will) talks while the others listen.
The Bee Hive
Divide students into groups. Have them discuss one question and task them with coming up with three follow-up questions. After a few minutes, take stock and write down all the questions from the groups on the board.
Variation 1: Let the students discuss the questions they find most interesting.
Variation 2: Pick one question from the board. Form new groups. Repeat.
Walk and Talk
Thinking outside the classroom, literally! Have the students pair up and go on a short walk outside to discuss the questions. On their return, let them take turns presenting their thoughts.
Two Circles / Speed Date
If possible, form two circles — one inner and one outer. Let the students talk about one question with the person facing them. Rotate the inner circle and repeat. If you’re limited by classroom logistics, set up two rows of facing chairs and rotate one of the rows.
Discuss in groups and make sure that every member of the group takes notes. After a few minutes, send one member from each group to another group and let them share what their previous one talked about.