A Discussion Web is an organizational tool that helps students to visualize the key elements of an issue, and quickly identify opposing points of view on the matter. Discussion Webs can guide discussions by allowing students to identify ideas of contention, to weigh opposing viewpoints, to critically evaluate the arguments, and to draw conclusions. Discussion Webs offer learners a clear "point-counterpoint" visual framework for analyzing texts or oral arguments.
• Select an appropriate reading that contains genuinely controversial elements and that elicits clearly-defined opposing viewpoints. • Decide how you want to group students, planning on groups of three to four. You may consider grouping students of similar ability together, or else balancing each group so that each one represents a range of abilities. Make sure to consider which students work well together and which can learn from each other. • Print and copy the Discussion Web template: http://www.readingeducator.com/strategies/discussion.gif
- Teacher distributes the selected reading to the students, and students read it alone, in small groups, or as a class.
Consider asking students to use reading strategies such as coding the text or reciprocal teaching in their initial reading to help scaffold their understanding. If students are working alone or in groups, circulate among them as they work, helping to gauge and extend their thinking.
- Teacher asks the class to identify the main question posed by the text. Once the class reaches consensus, this question is posted where everyone can see it.
Don’t rush the process of reaching consensus on the primary question. Allow students to explain their reasoning thoroughly while guiding them towards wording that they can all accept.
- Students get into groups of three to four. Teacher distributes a copy of the Discussion Web template to each individual.
If this is the first time students are completing this activity, you will need to model completion of a Discussion Web before students can do so independently. Use a familiar topic in your modeling so that students are able to focus on the process.
- Students write down at least three reasons why someone would answer the key question in each of two possible ways.
Circulate as students are working, and confer briefly with each group.
- Each group shares its responses, and teacher creates a simple T-chart recording their arguments on each side of the issue.
Only list unique arguments, otherwise the chart will become difficult to read. But validate repeated arguments by noting that they are good ideas that lots of people thought of.
- As a group, students evaluate the arguments on the T-chart one-by-one, considering their merit and logic objectively. Teacher can guide evaluation with questions such as: · Does this argument make sense? Why or why not? · What is the cause-and-effect re
Students can practice this step at school, but should also be taught it as a study strategy to use at home and in study halls. This can also be a good activity to complete in pairs.
- Each student decides on his or her own position, based on the arguments presented on both sides of the issue. They write their conclusions on their graphic organizers.
If there is a “middle ground” between the two positions, it is fine for students to adopt a stance somewhere in between the two extremes. Doing so can often represent a sophisticated understanding of an issue.
- Each student writes his or her conclusion on an index card and teacher collects the index cards.
- Teacher tallies responses on board. As a group, class fills out a shared Discussion Web, which includes the most common arguments used by students, and the most popular student conclusion. This document is displayed in the classroom.
Students can participate in identifying the most common arguments based on their previous class discussion. Be sure students understand that the most popular conclusion is not necessarily the “right” one, and that it is fine to hold a less popular view.
- Students reflect on their learning, either individually or in groups.
Either in writing or orally, students respond to questions including: · What did you learn today? · How did you learn this? · What strategies did you use? · How did using a Discussion Web affect your learning? · How might you use this strategy in the future when you are learning something independently? · How might you use this strategy in your life when you are faced with a difficult choice?