Newsletter in Action: Discussion Prompts

By Monica Burns 02.09.2014 blog

There are so many great features in the Channel One newsletter that arrives in your inbox each day. Between the vocabulary words, headlines and quiz questions, teachers have a lot of resources right in one email. The discussion prompts included in each newsletter is a fantastic tool for teachers. 

A great way to bring current events to life for your students is to engage them in a discussion about news topics. So often students are presented with information and don’t have a chance to share their opinion or express their point of view. There are lots of ways to use the discussion questions in your classroom and here are a few ideas to get you started.

Get off the fence

Issues are rarely black and white and often young people can find it hard to take a stand on one issue.  Encourage them to pick a position and support their thinking using specific details. This is great practice for opinion writing where they will need to choose an argument and stick with it for their essay.

Listen to your neighbor

Choose a discussion question to ask your students. Have them talk out their answer to a partner with the expectation that they will repeat their partner’s position and key argument. Instead of having students share out their own opinion with the rest of the class, ask them to report on how their neighbor feels about the topic.discussipn-prompts

Line up

When posing a yes or no discussion question to your class, ask them to imagine a line going down the classroom. If they fall into the “Yes” side they should stand on one side of the room, if there answer is “No” they should stand on the other. Students who aren’t sure can show which way they are leaning by standing somewhere in the middle of the yes/no line. Follow up by asking why they chose their position on the line.

Choose a leader

Divide your class into groups and give each group a different discussion question. Ask them to come to a collective opinion and identify details that support their answer. The group can choose a leader (or you can randomly call on one member of the group) who can report to the class on the group’s response to the question.

Acknowledge the counterargument

After a class discussion on a current event issue ask students to identify the counterargument to their position. As a homework assignment, ask students to describe both positions on an issue and why people might choose one or the other. 

Accountable talk

Encourage your students to be good listeners by using accountable talk prompts. When posing a discussion question to the class tell students that they should bounce off of another child’s idea by saying, “I agree with __(student name)__ because…” or “I disagree with __(student name)__ because…” This will help students get in the habit of listening to their neighbor, establishing their opinion and supporting their position with a reason.

How do you use the newsletter’s discussion questions with your students?  Try one of these and share your experience below!

Monica Burns is an Education Consultant, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

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