Schools play an extremely important role in a child's life and in more ways than one determine their future. They greatly influence the social and emotional behavior of the child. Schools are not just places of learning discipline and setting boundaries but also institutions where children learn things much beyond textbook knowledge. Child psychologists believe that classrooms are the first place where a child learns to form different opinions and thought processes. In that sense, teachers can either have an immense negative or positive influence on the child depending on the classroom environment.
Textbooks and blackboards can teach core subjects but applying this knowledge requires logic that is formed through positive classroom discussions. Class discussions can either be related to subjects taught or to life lessons that teachers wish to impart. A constructive classroom discussion can teach the importance of respecting other people's opinions and thoughts. It instills the idea that one cannot always be right and should be flexible enough to accept it.
What is classroom discussion?
A class discussion is essentially a practice that has long been followed in teaching institutions like schools and colleges. It involves students and teachers sharing their views and knowledge on a particular topic. Different types of classroom discussion methods exist that suit different classes and serve different purposes. Let us have a look at some of them:
1) Deliberate: This method is most useful when the purpose of the discussion is to declare a particular point of view or stance. It can best be used when a specific message is to be portrayed through a lesson or a chapter.
2) Dialogue: Dialogues are most useful in a classroom when information needs to be exchanged. Since peers exchange their personal thoughts and provide an equal amount of attention listening to each other, these discussions often open doors to new relationships and better bonds between students and teachers.
3) Declare: Individual and coercive conversation or commenting styles are used by those who declare. Their main goals are to emote, motivate and possibly control the conversation. These communications could have a person speaking to coerce or command obedience from others.
4) Debate: One of the most effective methods of discussion in a classroom and one that often leads to critical thinking is a class discussion involving debating. It pushes students to move out of their comfort zones, think deeper, and convince others to agree with their perspectives. This communication includes conversations between two or more persons trying to find common ground or educate one another.
Discussions are extremely beneficial to advance students' thinking, learning, problem-solving, comprehension, and literary appreciation skills. They provide a range of platforms for the open-ended, collaborative exchange of ideas between a teacher and students or among students.
These interesting and thought-provoking discussion methods are highly beneficial. Lessons in the classroom that are mixed with student input increase the focus, interest, and engagement in the classroom. What may otherwise look like a boring lesson is made rather interesting via such discussions.
As students participate in class, it reveals a lot about their thought processes, learning, and understanding. This also serves as feedback for the teacher. Moreover, a safe and friendly discussion environment often promotes and allows even shy students to open up and speak. This develops all students' speaking and listening skills while promoting active participation.
Role of teachers
While there are multiple benefits of class discussions, they only accrue when discussions are effective and interesting. More than the students and their input, the nature of the class discussion is highly dependent on the facilitator. Here are some interesting ideas to make classroom discussions more efficient and effective for both students as well as teachers:
- Inculcate something called the 'Lightning Round' in your class discussions. As the name suggests, these rounds require students to speak briefly about a topic one after the other. It's a round filled with speed, entertainment, and energy.
- Another way to keep class discussions interesting is to play 'Fireball' while holding a discussion. This game comprises a softball being thrown around the class and whoever catches it has to speak about the ongoing topic.
- Questionnaires, debates, and agreements are some other common practices that make class decisions more efficient and proactive.
Even though classroom discussions have usually been conducted within in-person class gatherings, with newer methods of online schooling, online class group discussions have become far better avenues for getting students to speak up. This is because students feel more confident taking classes from within their comfort zone in their homes.
Improving online class group discussions
Mentioned below are some of the ways in which online classes can be made more interactive:
1) Flexibility of response
While asking the class a question, provide them with flexibility and liberty to choose how they wish to answer – via chat or by speaking out. Ensure the required response is succinct and easy to communicate by keeping it short and basic.
2) Use innovative and collaborative methods
Give students a minute when asking questions that push them to think carefully, then ask them to write their response on an electronic bulletin board. Real-time answers are visible to both you and the students. Some enticing and easy-to-use boards include the jab-board provided by Google and Padlet.
3) Use Polls
Think about substituting some of your open questions with interactive polls. You can use the traditional multiple-choice style or put the pupils to the test with a word cloud or a scale question. Participants can cast their votes while you show them the outcome as they appear on your screen. Remember to give a detailed explanation regarding the outcome of the poll to make the class discussion more comprehensive!
Using the above-mentioned activities, even topics that do not interest students can be made more interesting and participative through online class group discussions. These activities will have a definite positive impact on the students. Enthused and motivated students will also inspire and encourage teachers to further discuss all sorts of topics and lessons in class.
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