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:
- 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.
- Know your purpose. Is the goal to arrive at a decision or merely to brainstorm possible ideas that you'll follow up on later?
- 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.
- Leaders only ask questions; they do not answer them.
- Care about each question you ask. Avoid generic questions and prepare some good questions in advance.
- Maintain a high energy level and enthusiasm. It's contagious!
- Spontaneous interpretive questions are an important part of all discussions. Preparing questions in advance will actually lead to better spontaneous questions as well.
- 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.
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