We all have our go-tos in our classrooms. I thought I would share one of mine that has worked really well in discussion. I call it a “Web of Conversation.” When I was in student teaching, one of my fellow student teachers tossed the idea to me. It wasn’t until last year that I ended up using it.
I’m not claiming this as my idea or as a particular revolutionary idea, but it is a lot of fun and all my students look forward to this type of discussion. As much as I love high-tech things, I also like low-tech options. Some people use Harkness to moderate Socratic or full-class discussions. I usually just sit us all in a circle, and throw around some yarn. I usually sit down with a class list and tally people’s responses or write down particularly interesting comments from students.
What you need:
- Yarn ball
- Group of students
- Only the person with the yarn talks
- Soft passes to other students
- Give it slack when doing a long pass or it will fall in the middle of the web and start a debacle
- Everyone needs to have at least 3 strings looped around their fingers (talk three times)
- You only loop it around your finger if you contribute to the conversation (meaningful responses)
- Socratic Seminar Discussion
- To help track if students are responding in discussion
- To make students feel literally and figuratively tied to the conversation
- To notice patterns in conversation (lots of strings to only one or two kids means domination of conversation)
Things to Watch Out For:
- Kids love bouncing the web up and down–it is a naturally reaction–nip it in the bud immediately
- The yarn falls in the middle: everyone should then raise up the web and have a student walk underneath to retrieve
- Wrapping it up: simply get the yarn towards the end of the discussion and just start rewinding it. The students will let go of the yarn in the opposite order.
- DO NOT HAVE ALL STUDENTS LET GO OF IT AT ONCE: it will tangle, you will have to cut it.