The Best of 2013-2014: Web of Conversation

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.

This is what it looks like:Image

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.