Tis the Season . . . for REAL Discussion

This post was contributed by Linda Rodriguez

As you may know, I am a R.E.A.L believer!  This discussion format, geared to middle and upper school students, takes what we try to do with Harkness and gets the teacher out of the way so kids can R.E.A.L.ly talk to each other.

Don’t get me wrong!  I love the Harkness table!  I love the give and take of a great Harkness discussion!  However, too often (in my experience) the same 2-5 students work the room and crowd out other voices.  Additionally, I don’t like how the kids look to me when they’re speaking – I mean, I know I’m grading them and all, but it’s much more interesting when they talk to each other and I’m in the background.  

With R.E.A.L, students come to class with questions and quotes so they have something to say, jumping in when conversation flaggs and voicing their opinions and queries…and they’re NOT looking at me for validation!  Their level of intentional preparedness allows them the freedom to speak from a place of knowledge, not just to earn a grade.

I also R.E.A.L.ly appreciate the built-in moments when students are given quiet time within the discussion.  In my class, this happens about every 10 – 15 minutes.  We break the discussion for 5 minutes so students can reflect on the conversation that just happened, writing what they heard and what they think.  This offers another avenue for the quiet students to voice their opinion, even if it’s just to me.

Now, to be fair, I’m only doing R.E.A.L “light.”  I’m not implementing all of the R.E.A.L.ly great tools of the program, but my students see the difference:

“Overall, I think this was a pretty well rounded discussion involving everyone in class. Discussions in this class are unique from any other class we’ve had in that it is not heavily monitored.”

“I think this discussion went well. Everybody talked and shared their ideas. I could probably work on giving questions during the discussion though.”

“This discussion was much better than the discussion of last time. This is partly because I read the correct document, but also partly because I feel as though the discussion flowed smoother. I feel as though everyone participated. It was slay.”

Toss me an email if you’d like to chat about this program or how to get trained.  It’s the R.E.A.L deal!

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