This year, I committed to making student voices a bigger component of every day in my classroom. I’m making sure to build in lots of intentional informal speaking opportunities on a daily basis. I’m holding Socratic Seminars at least once every quarter. In addition, I’m starting a new routine in all of my classes: the Friday discussion.

Today was the first Friday discussion for my AP Lang kids and the second for my seniors. We reviewed the expectations, and everyone got a copy of this excellent TED Talk handout. After giving my students the chance to turn and talk about a thematic question based on the TED Talk, I hit play.
Once the video clip was over, we turned our attention to the discussion. My rules for Friday discussion sare these:

  1. One person speaks at a time. The speaker gets to call on the next participant.
  2. Everyone must contribute once before the discussion opens to multiple contributions from the same individual.
  3. Contributions to the discussion must demonstrate preparedness, propel the conversation, and respectfully respond to diverse perspectives.

Most students do well with this. I keep a blank roster spreadsheet in front of me to check off the contributions for each student. While students talk, I also backchannel by typing questions that arise during the discussion. Students may choose to address the questions, but they are a resource, not a requirement. At the end of the period, students write their reflections on the back of the TED Talk paper and turn it in.

There are few classes as mentally invigorating as those containing rich discourse. It’s such a fantastic feeling to head into the weekend knowing that my students will probably be thinking and talking about the Friday Discussion long after class is over. They will be taking a stance on the topics, sharing their thinking beyond the class, looking for connections to their lives–and that’s what being a citizen rhetor is all about.

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