Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Curated Discussion is a simple but effective activity that involves all students in taking the role of a temporary expert in small groups.

Curated Discussions have some great features:
  • they provide an excellent means of checking for understanding
  • they require the students to do the work of thinking about, organizing, and presenting content
  • they give practice in speaking to, and leading discussions in, a group, and...
  • they require this on a small scale, so that nearly any student will be comfortable with it

Curated Discussions work as follows:
  1. The class is divided up into small groups (3-5). (Four groups of four, or five groups of five, would lead to an ideal composition of the new groups, but this is not in any way necessary.)
  2. The class works with content, organizing it on poster board, on white boards, or large sticky notes place on the walls or boards in the classroom.
  3. After the content is organized in final written form, the groups are re-organized so that one member from each of the original groups is now placed in a new small group. Each of the new groups will have at least one member from each of the original groups. 
  4. The new groups then move about the room, and as they stop at each of the posters the original member of that group is the presenter/expert, who explains the group's thinking.
  5. Students in the new groups should be instructed to ask questions and to discuss the content. What should happen is that the group will engage in a mini-harkness discussion. 
  6. After a few minutes, groups rotate on to the next group's work, until they have discussed them all.
  7. The teacher is able to move about the room, observing and listening to discussions. Anything unclear or incorrect can be noted to be reviewed after the activity is complete, or the teacher can enter into discussion with the groups as needed on the spot. 

Example of a Curated Discussion:
In my Rhetoric I class students apply principles of judicial speech from Aristotle's Rhetoric to three Old Testament crimes (i.e. Caine's murder of Abel, David's adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, and Haman's attempted plot against the Jews--credit to Jim Nance of Logos School).

After having previously worked through one of the situations individually, students were divided up into three groups, and each group was given one of the crimes  to work with.

The groups discussed the main questions for their crime and presented their analysis and answers on large sticky notes, which they placed around the room.

The students were then re-shuffled into new groups, each with at least one representative from the original groups to act as presenter and discussion leader. Where there were more than one from the original groups the students shared the responsibility to lead.

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