I love Socratic Seminar! I usually have my students prepare questions and answers ahead of time, and on the day of the discussion, my role becomes “guide-on-the-side” while students just start conversing about the important issues in the novel we’ve just finished reading. As students discuss, I usually keep track of how many times they’ve offered their ideas, and whether or not they’ve said something insightful, or if they’ve used quotes to support their reasoning. But this year, I wanted to try something new. Last year, I tried Speed Dating Debating with my AP Language and Composition students. They liked it and it worked fine. But I didn’t like the simplistic topics. In thinking about the new discussion model I wanted to create, I knew I wanted to incorporate elements of Socratic Seminar and Speed Dating Debating, but I also wanted to be sure essential questions were included, so I started brainstorming. I came up with Talk, Jot, Rotate!
After my juniors were done reading McCarthy’s The Road, I had them take another look at the essential questions that served as a framework for the novel. Each student was encouraged to answer 5 essential questions with relevant details and quotes from the novel to support their reasoning. I handed out the instructions for the Talk, Jot, Rotate discussion, and the next day we were ready to discuss! The students were seated opposite each other ready with their answers to the essential questions. I served as moderator. I asked the first question and students just started talking to each other. I provided a form for them to keep track of if their partner made insightful comments and/or provided quotes from the novel to support their reasoning. I rotated around the room and observed the process. I was astounded by the quality of comments I heard! And for the most part, the conversations seemed natural and not scripted. After a few minutes, and when the conversation seemed to wind down, I had students jot down key words they heard their partners say, and we moved onto the next question. Before they started talking, they got up from their desks, and rotated seats. This ensured that for each question, students had a new discussion partner. I saw many smiles as the students truly enjoyed this new discussion model. The next day, I had them complete a few reflection questions about their discussion performance, and what I could change to make the experience better. Most students loved Talk, Jot, Rotate! A few even commented they wanted to do this again soon. Many said they enjoyed being able to discuss these concepts with their classmates, and that they liked having a different partner every time.
If you’d like to learn more about Talk, Jot, Rotate, for The Road, click here!
What a great idea for discussing a text, and especially for such a powerful book like The Road…since I’m not in the classroom any longer, I might try this next time I present to teachers.