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Friday, December 16, 2011

leading discussions

© Copyright 2009 by Heather Holleman

Leading Discussions
Heather Holleman
Penn State University

How to Lead a Discussion: Engage a Text, Launch a Question, Model Feedback
“Do not teach about a text. Teach your experience with a text.”

In any given class, you’ll be talking about writing. What sorts of things might you talk about?
How do you get a discussion going? Finally, what happens when you have to give feedback
(verbal or written)?

1. What to Do with a Text:
With any text, an essay, a short story, a textbook chapter, a sample essay, etc., you can ask students to do
four things. During class, students can report back what they experienced with the text.

1. Resonance, Resistance: Have students mark down places of resonance (what I like, what
seemed true and right, what I agree with) or resistance (what I dislike, what seemed wrong,
manipulative or deceptive, what I disagree with).
2. What question is this text asking me?: Have students think about questions that came to
mind as they read a text. What question does the text frame?
3. Places of great writing: Have students share what they thought was good writing.
4. Rhetorical appeals: How does this text “work” on me as a reader? Have students mark
places where they identified ethos, pathos, and logos.


2. How to Launch a Discussion Question:
Closed questions ask for one word answers without debate. Open questions invite multiple answers. If
students still don’t talk, have them write down their answers first.

Closed Open
1. Who is the author? What did you discover about the author?
2. Where did you see pathos? How did this text use appeals to emotion?
3. Did you like this text? What do you remember about this text?
4. Is this good writing? What did you learn that helps your writing?

To keep discussion going, try using this phrase:
Tell me more.


3. Giving Feedback in a Discussion
1. Celebrate strengths
2. Point out a growth area / common themes
3. Instruct how they might improve
4. Dialogue with students. Feedback is not a monologue.
5. Make a plan for development. What’s the student’s next step?

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