Episode 008: Harkness Discussions
In this episode, I share with you the basics in starting to use the round-table discussion method called Harkness in your classrooms.
A few key points.
I mention early in the show that I attended the Exeter Humanities Institute to learn about Harkness. If you’re interested, check it out here.
Remember the five simple steps in getting started with Harkness:
1. Talk about what makes a good discussion with your students – brainstorm a list of elements you can turn into bookmarks or a poster for the wall.
2. Talk about the teacher’s role as a (very quiet) guide.
3. Talk about the observer’s role and explain the observation chart.
4. Print out some circle charts so you are ready for the observers to do their work. (Find a link to a printable chart and more information on Harkness in the post I wrote right here).
5. Brainstorm some warm-up activities to help students be prepared for an effective discussion.
Write down a question at the top of your paper about last night’s reading. Now pass it to the right. Respond to the question you see. Pass. Respond. Pass. Respond. (Etc.)
Jot down the quotation from last night’s reading that you consider to be the most important.
Don’t worry when common problems arise in the first few days of discussion. Domination, lack of text references, and awkward silences are very common! Let the observer respond and guide the class in good directions.
Want to dive deeper? Read the article I wrote for Independent School Magazine: “Learning to Share: Life Lessons in Group Dynamics.”
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