Resource Round-Up: Peer Discussions

January 3, 2021

We know engaging discussion with peers builds community, leads to deeper learning and motivates students. Figuring out how to create meaningful dialogue and get every student to participate is tough in the classroom. Finding new ways to do this remotely is an even bigger challenge.

So, we have compiled advice from fellow teachers to help you creatively use online tools to build an engaging classroom culture where all your students feel comfortable sharing. The first few resources provide some general advice, while later ones provide specific ideas for the use of video conferencing break out rooms and text-based online discussions.

Kara Newhouse

A former Tennessee Teacher of the Year shares six strategies she uses in her middle school math classroom to spark peer discussion. She details how she has stayed true to her inquiry-based teaching approach throughout remote learning by continuing to ask open-ended questions, allowing thinking time, validating student voice, and being comfortable with that awkward silence.

Emelina Minero

By combing through social media posts, this author compiled advice from dozens of fellow teachers working remotely. From adapting think-pair-share to zoom, to critiquing peer work through virtual gallery walks, the strategies here will help you draw out the voices of all your students in both synchronous and asynchronous discussions.

Mike Anderson

During remote learning many of the nonverbal cues we rely on to guide class discussion are obscured by masks or computer screens. The one thing we can control is the language we use to invite students into the conversation. This veteran teacher provides specific examples to ensure your language is student-centered, by moving away from teacher-centric prompts, echo talk, and judgments of contributions.

Rhonda Bondie

An expert teacher and professor shares ideas to help you get the most out of small group discussions conducted via video conferencing. She introduces a strategy to monitor discussions and provide guidance and feedback as groups meet. She also proposes creative ways to help students both prepare for and reflect on discussion in order to build a remote classroom with a vibrant culture of meaningful exchange between peers.

Diane Cunningham

This article explores ways to scaffold student discussion in online text forums. The author outlines the importance of outline clear expectations for participation and modeling thoughtful questions and exchange between participants. He also provides great ways to use visual cues to help students navigate through a discussion board and more easily jump into the conversation.

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