Silent discussions are a handy go-to option for helping every student participate in a discussion. They can help break up discussion ruts, show your classroom community how much quieter students really have to contribute, and let everyone think carefully about a topic before diving into a big oral discussion or related writing prompt.
Sounds pretty good, right? I’ve found them to be gold. So in today’s episode, let’s talk about three easy ways to try your first silent discussion.
You can listen in to the episode below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.
The Silent Discussion Notebook Pass
This one’s the classic option – the way I started with my first discussion – and it couldn’t be easier. Just have students flip to a new page in their notebooks and write a question about the reading at the top. Then invite them to pass the notebook to the right. Give the next student time to read and respond, then ask them to pass it again. And again. And again.
As the notebook travels the room, each student will have time to process and respond to many questions, as well as read responses from others.
Silent Discussion on your Walls
This is a fun option if you’ve got access to a lot of whiteboards, post-its, or big butcher paper. Simply post questions up on your walls all over the room, then invite students to go around and join the conversation around each. That could look like adding their ideas to a whiteboard, putting their post-it up under a question, or finding space on a giant piece of paper with everyone else.
Let them know they can respond directly to the question, or to someone else’s response. They should place their answer accordingly, or add some arrows or other type of connector to show what thread they are adding to.
Silent Discussions on Google Slides
During the pandemic, I discovered how easy silent discussions are to run on Google slides. All you need is a set of slides with your questions and places for kids to add in their responses. Then give them some time to flip from slide to slide, reading questions and responses and responding to both.
I’ve got a slide deck all ready for you to make this easy, because it’s such a wonderful online option if you’re meeting kids cross distance or you want a written record of your conversation. Sign up for these colorful (free) templates here.
Extending the Conversation
Once your silent discussion is complete, either on Slides, as a notebook pass, or on your walls, you can always extend it into a conversation out loud.
I’ve found that inviting a student to share a question they found interesting from the silent discussion is an easy in. At that point, a rich discussion is likely to happen because so many kids in the room have already given the topic serious thought. They’re likely to go in new directions too, having already moved along the basic beginnings in their written conversation.
I hope you’ll give silent discussions a try to change up the dynamics in your room – I think you’ll be pleased with the results.