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Keeping the Conversation Going — Across a Distance

Practical strategies to build rich, equitable online discussions
Online discussion illustration

Moving to online teaching does not have to mean losing rich peer-to-peer discussions, says Rhonda Bondie in one of two pieces produced for ASCD Express that provide practical tips for teachers to fuel the kind of quality conversations that lead to deeper learning.

In Direction Correction: Getting the Discussions You Want, Bondie outlines three keys in teacher directions that help create opportunities and provide access for diverse learners to engage in meaningful, deep discussions. “Some 30 years of classroom teaching has shown me that discussion directions do much more than articulate tasks and manage behavior. Key elements in teacher directions engage students as leaders and listeners, build academic language, further subject understanding, and support students in learning to value their peers' contributions as well as their own,” writes Bondie.

In the piece, she outlines those three keys:

  • Key 1: Identify the thinking product produced through discussion.
  • Key 2: Prepare, discuss, evaluate, and reflect.
  • Key 3: Adjust roles, rules, turns, and time.

In Practical Tips for Teaching Online Small-Group Discussions, Bondie outlines three tools that can support high-quality discussions and help educators keep track of whether students are contributing and learning.

  • Tool 1: Note Catchers for Breakout Room Discussions
  • Tool 2: Pre-Assignments to Prepare for Online Discussions
  • Tool 3: Simple End-of-Session Feedback Survey

“Given that students are not able to meet physically,” Bondie writes, they “need to engage with their peers to know that they belong and are valued members of many communities, especially their school community.

Read both pieces in ASCD Express.

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