High Prep Discussion Protocols for English Language LearnersBack to Blog
High Prep Discussion Protocols for English Language Learners
Every English as a New Language (ENL) teacher knows the importance of academic discussion, both for language development and critical thinking skills, but many have also experienced the frustration of asking students to talk about something, either as a whole class or in small groups, and hearing silence. The right strategies, however, with appropriate scaffolding and preparation, can make academic discussion far less daunting for both teachers and students. Building off of last year’s webinar on low prep discussion strategies, “Beyond Turn and Talk” (watch here), the Secondary SIG will be presenting a webinar on “High Prep Discussion Protocols for ELLs” (register here) on June 1 from 5:30-6:30 PM.
The previous training introduced three strategies that can be deployed flexibly without significant pre-class assignments and that bolster students’ confidence in a variety of ways. Speed-Dating Discussions give students the chance to discuss the same prompt with different partners in a small group before one member of each group shares their ideas with the whole class. The initial discussion guarantees everyone has something to say when called upon. Up-Down-Both-Why asks students to gauge their affective reaction to a text on a continuum (such as positive/negative, optimistic/pessimistic, effective/ineffective, etc.) then justify their reaction, leading to more nuanced and less dichotomous thinking. With language support appropriate to your students’ levels, these activities give students clear roles and responsibilities, require them to listen and respond, and thus create authentic interaction and collaboration.several times, helping them both hone their ideas and practice the language they need to express them. Numbered Heads Together gives students the opportunity to discuss a question in a small group before one member of each group shares their ideas with the whole class. The initial discussion guarantees everyone has something to say when called upon. Up-Down-Both-Why asks students to gauge their affective reaction to a text on a continuum (such as positive/negative, optimistic/pessimistic, effective/ineffective, etc.) then justify their reaction, leading to more nuanced and less dichotomous thinking. With language support appropriate to your students’ levels, these activities give students clear roles and responsibilities, require them to listen and respond, and thus create authentic interaction and collaboration.
Yet while effective, on their own these strategies are not always enough to solicit sustained, evidence-based academic discussions of the type students need to master to be college-ready. That’s where high prep protocols come in. These require students to come to the discussion having already completed their reading and prepared ideas in advance, whether you provide them with class time for preparation, or ask them to prepare for homework. In this webinar, we will introduce two discussion protocols, along with the research supporting their efficacy, through step-by-step guidance for implementing them and adapting them to your needs.
1. Literature Circles
In these “book club”-style meetings, students have assigned roles but collaboratively discuss a text they have all read. Literature circles meet regularly every 1-2 weeks to discuss a new short story, or chapters of a longer work—though they can be modified non-fiction texts! Optimally, they include 6-7 students who each have a specific role, and the roles rotate each meeting. The key to running successful literature circles is to establish clear procedures for the meetings (including timing), provide students with worksheets to prepare for their jobs before meetings, and prepare sentence starters to support accountable talk—both in the general discussions, and for each specific role.
*Discussion Director: prepares discussion questions and leads the discussion, keeps group on task, monitors time.
* Summarizer: summarizes text, clarifies plot details, makes a prediction for next reading.
* Passage Picker: selects meaningful passages to share, justifies and analyzes selection.* Illustrator: sketches an important moment in the text or a visual representation of a literary device to share.
* Word Wizard: identifies significant word choice, selects words/phrases to present both dictionary definition and diction analysis.
*Connector: chooses three passages, makes text-to-self, world, and text connections.
Following the circles, students reflect on their group’s discussion overall and how well they performed their own role, then record a new insight or perspective they gained on the text.
2. Socratic Seminars
These student-led, text-based discussions give students the chance to share their interpretations, challenge each other, and use inquiry to deepen their understanding and dissect complex ideas. Perhaps that’s why some of them dread these discussions, but with the proper preparation, everyone gets a chance to shine! One key step is to introduce discussion strategies individually in regular lessons before bringing them all together during a Socratic Seminar. Those are flexible, but may include:
* Expressing an opinion or relevant comment
* Quoting supporting evidence from the text
* Analyzing evidence from the text
* Inviting someone to join the discussion
* Affirming and adding on to what someone else said
* Asking a question about reasons, evidence, causes
* Disagreeing or presenting a different perspective on a subject
Another critical step is to give students time to prepare by reading and annotating the text, responding to guiding questions, and potentially preparing questions of their own. After all that prep, you can implement the Socratic Seminar itself!
Split the class into two groups and organize everyone into an inside and outside circle.
Assign inside students a “buddy” in the same circle: students are responsible for inviting their “buddy” to join the discussion.
Assign inside students a “coach” in the outside circle: coaches sit behind their partner and take notes on their partner’s contribution.
Allow at least 20 minutes for one discussion, providing a break halfway through for peer feedback from the outside circle. Limit speaking time to 1 minute and set the expectation that there shouldn’t be more than 20 seconds of silence.
Provide an opening question, and then let the Socratic Seminar begin! When complete, switch the inside and outside circles.
Once again, wrap up the activity with a reflection. Ask students to think about their performance in the Socratic Seminar, as well as any new insights they gained or ideas they strongly agreed or disagreed with.
Stephanie Chiu first began her career in TESOL by teaching English in France. She is finishing her ninth year of teaching high school ENL. She currently teaches at Emma Lazarus High School, a transfer school in Manhattan designed for older students who are learning English. Previously, she taught at a Chinese-English dual language high school and served as an adjunct lecturer at CUNY Hunter College. She has always been fascinated by language, having studied linguistics, psychology, and French for her undergraduate degree at New York University.
Timothy Nassau spent five years teaching ENL at the middle and high school level. Prior to that, he taught English for two years in Japan. Since living abroad as a child, he has been an advocate of multilingualism and the cultural understandings it entails. He currently works in the Education and Family Programs department at Japan Society in New York City developing programs for K-12 students and educators.
Sandra Vargas-Ortega, Ph.D.
VP of Communications for NYS TESOL
Sandra Vargas has been an educator for over 17 years. She began her teaching career in Puerto Rico and currently works as an ENL educator/ coordinator in NYC and adjunct professor for undergraduate and graduate students. Being committed to research, she completed a Ph.D. language research. Dr. Vargas-Ortega is a collaborative leader who enjoys learning from like-minded professionals in thin Second Language Acquisition Research and co-directs doctoral students in the field of language acquisition.