Talon Talk

Where Your Mind, Body, and Heart Can Soar!

Socratic Seminar from Mr. Knutson's Seventh Grade World Geography Class

Below is a videotape from this past week. Thank you, Chris, for giving us a glimpse into your classroom and providing all of us with an example of student-led discourse in action at HMS!


Explanation from Chris Knutson: "I did an inquiry with my students regarding the effectiveness of our criminal justice system in the U.S. Students prepared by analyzing a number of sources during the research phase. Sources included both video and text. Students were required to submit a short essay response supporting their opinion on the following question: Does the US have a good criminal justice system? Why or why not? Our inquiry concluded with a Socratic Seminar. This particular class did a really nice job, but the Socratic Seminar does start off a bit slow with only two students sharing their ideas initially. More students begin to engage in the discussion after a few minutes into the clip."

Socratic seminar

A Positive, Proactive Way to Manage Classroom Behaviors...

A must-watch and read for all of us! Please click on the link below.

Low-Prep Student-Led Discussion Strategies

A laser-like focus on increasing both the quantity and quality of student-led academic discussions is one of our main school-wide goals.


Please consider submitting one or more of your own student-led discussion strategies in upcoming Talon Talks. Think about sharing student work, pictures, or videos that showcase what the discussion strategies look like with your students....also the learning impact that these strategies have on your students' learning. If you are interested, please complete the information on this link.


We would love to share out HMS-specific student/teacher work in Socratic Seminars, literature discussion groups, comprehension focus groups, concentric circles, and much more so that we can learn and grow together!

1. "Hot Seat"


Basic Structure: One student assumes the role of a book character, significant figure in history, or concept (such as a tornado, an animal, or the Titanic). Sitting in front of the rest of the class, the student responds to classmates’ questions while staying in character in that role.

Variations: Give more students the opportunity to be in the hot seat while increasing everyone’s participation by having students do hot seat discussions in small groups, where one person per group acts as the “character” and three or four others ask them questions. In another variation, several students could form a panel of different characters, taking questions from the class all together and interacting with one another like guests on a TV talk show.

Audrey in the Hot Seat as Goldilocks after a Read Aloud

2. "Snowball Discussion"

a.k.a. Pyramid Discussion

Basic Structure: Students begin in pairs, responding to a discussion question only with a single partner. After each person has had a chance to share their ideas, the pair joins another pair, creating a group of four. Pairs share their ideas with the pair they just joined. Next, groups of four join together to form groups of eight, and so on, until the whole class is joined up in one large discussion. For a prize, be the first person to ask Mr. Wegner (in person), "What are some fun things you did with your children for Christmas?"

Variations: This structure could simply be used to share ideas on a topic, or students could be required to reach consensus every time they join up with a new group.

3. "Think-Pair-Share"

An oldie but a goodie, think-pair-share can be used any time you want to plug interactivity into a lesson: Simply have students think about their response to a question, form a pair with another person, discuss their response, then share it with the larger group. Because I feel this strategy has so many uses and can be way more powerful than we give it credit for, I devoted a whole post to think-pair-share; everything you need to know about it is right there.

How to do a Think Pair Share - TeachLikeThis

Sixth grade Genius Hour - Student Led Discourse in Practice...

Aidan participating in a Google hangout with a nurse practitioner as he researches information for his anti-smoking campaign.
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Poetry Slam - Informational Text Focus - Ms. Draeger's seventh grade students

Students are creating and presenting informational slam poems. Another example of student discourse in action @ HMS.
Poetry Slam - informational text. Ms. Draeger's seventh grade students

Something to think about...

Changing Education Paradigms