Leading a Discussion

Good learning programs involve everyone in planning and activities, whether it's a discussion among your team about goals or a brainstorming session among kids planning a video project. Here are some good ground rules for leading a discussion:

  1.  Make sure everyone is prepared. This could mean that everyone has received the handouts or that you've read aloud the story you want to talk about.
  2.  Know your purpose. Is the goal to arrive at a decision or merely to brainstorm possible ideas that you'll follow up on later?
  3.  Opinions should always be supported with evidence. If you're discussing a book, for example, ask follow-up questions about why the student believes what she does.
  4.  Leaders only ask questions; they do not answer them.
  5.  Care about each question you ask. Avoid generic questions and prepare some good questions in advance.
  6.  Maintain a high energy level and enthusiasm. It's contagious!
  7.  Spontaneous interpretive questions are an important part of all discussions. Preparing questions in advance will actually lead to better spontaneous questions as well.
  8.  All good questions always lead to more questions. Be aware of practical and logistical issues, such as time limits, but never squelch enthusiasm when kids are on a roll.

Whenever possible and appropriate, use techniques like mapping to provide a conceptual, visual structure to the ideas you're hearing. Let people see you writing their thoughts and ideas on the map.


"How to Teach Students to Ask Open-ended Questions"      Lesson Paths Article with tips and strategies