Thursday, September 22, 2016

Round Table Discussion: an every time of year activity

The round table discussion is one I've been doing for years and one I love. I openly admit it isn't my own activity. My first year teaching, I was looking for new ideas and I came across the Scottish government's website on education. It has since been revamped (and finding this original reference was hard), but included in it were videos from a Latin classroom. Here is the original video I watched 5 years ago. She called it a clipboard quiz, but, with the number of students in my classroom, I changed the name to a round table discussion. While I don't do this (or any of the activities found here really) exactly the way they do it, I love looking for options.

The Set Up

I like my students to be in small groups for this; the deeper/high level the question is, the more students I allow in a group. I don't like more than 4 in a group for this, however. 

I then write as many questions as there will be groups (of course smaller classes won't see all the questions). I will say more about these below.

I prefer my questions to be related to the upcoming test or the story we've been reading. I also allow students to use their notes or stories for this activity, especially if the questions are more open ended or of a higher level thinking. 

The Questions

Having played this game (of sorts) more than a few times, I've started to notice which questions work and which don't. This year, in looking back at K-5 strategies, I've started to adjust the kinds of questions that I write. Below are some of the types of questions I've used or have thought about using: ones that I know work, ones that sometimes work, and ones that don't
  • Quid Significat (what does it mean) questions: These work rarely, but they do work. They work for words that have multiple meanings that students know. I have used this for words like petere, umbra, and other words whose meaning depends on context. 
  • Culture Questions with open answers: These are great if they are open. Questions about products, perspectives, and practices are great. Questions about the hero's journey are also good. 
  • Culture Questions with single answers: These don't work since they have one answer. What ends up happening is groups who get this question quickly check the right answer and then check out of class. Questions like these involve dates, names, or single vocabulary words involving culture. 
  • Comprehension Questions: These are the kind I have usually used and I quickly learned that some don't work. Like with the culture questions, comprehension questions with single answers don't work. Rather, focus on higher level questions or questions where a list is involved. Students won't have time to list everything out, and then they have to read each other's responses. 
  • Words we know Questions: These are great. You can have a single question where they must like a word or two and what it means, or you can do it by categories (write one word we know that has to do with.... houses/school/war/etc.)

The Process

Round 1

Students receive their resources and the question. They are given a set amount of time to answer the question. 

Round 2 - the end

Students rotate papers and receive a new question. They have a set amount of time to review the previous and write their own answers/thoughts. 

Reviewing Other Answers

When students review each others answers, they need to mark one of two things:


  1. ✔ - This signifies that students agree with the answer; that is is correct or plausible.
  2. X - This signifies that students do not agree with the answer; that it is incorrect or not possible.

Changes to the Game

In the past, I've done this for a final exam review and have allowed students to take pictures of answers or I posted answers online. This year, for at least this round, I have changed it up. Instead of giving definitive answers, I've typed up each class's answers and agreements in a document and posted it online. I've left it open to comment for students to take a look at and comment what they want. I also included some notes to point to answers that may not be correct.




Thoughts and Reflection

I have grown to really like this activity. I can use it as a formative assessment, pull assessment questions from it, or use it to inform study guides and notes.

Students like this activity. It is collaborative and low pressure, even with the time limit, since they get to see others' answers and evaluate them. Students also know I tend to pull questions from it for our assessments, so it allows for transparency.

I really like using this activity when we have questions whose answers require reflection and evidence. It sparks great discussions!