Chapter 9: Oral Presentations

9.3 Leading Class Discussions

Your instructor may have directed you to assign one or more discussion questions in advance or on the day of the presentation, or you may simply wish to gather feedback from your classmates or further discuss your topic. In any case, there are numerous techniques for stimulating class discussion, especially in a reluctant room where many students will not volunteer to speak.

Avoid relying on the few volunteers in every classroom who are ready to speak to any topic. Your goal should be to get everyone in the room talking, not just the frequent contributors. Encourage frequent speakers to monitor their input by asking, “Can we hear from someone who hasn’t spoken yet?” You can also write names of those who have already spoken on the board, if you know them. Finally, your instructor can remind students that they and you both earn marks for participation.

Table 9.2 Discussion stimulation techniques
Name of Technique How to Do It
Tag, you’re it Bring a soft object such as a plush ball with you to class, or crumple up a piece of paper to use as a ball. Display your question, give students a moment to reply, then lob the ball to the first speaker. The first speaker picks the next by throwing the ball, and so on, until everyone in the room has spoken.
Think/pair/share Display the question, then ask students to write their answers. Ask them to share their answers with the person next to them. Then ask the pairs to report on their answers to the entire class.
Reflective writing Like think/pair/share, this allows students to write on the question before they share their answers with the class. For sensitive topics, students can write the answer and hand it in anonymously, and you can read them out.
Snowball If you are trying to get students to ask you questions and encounter reluctance, ask them to write down their questions on a piece of paper, crumple the paper, and toss it into the middle of the room. Pick up the papers and answer the questions.
Group reporter Have the students discuss the question in groups. Ask the person with the least experience speaking in class to report on the group discussion to the rest of the class.
Everyone answers Each person in class is called on in turn until everyone has spoken. Students can also be called alphabetically. To encourage conversation rather than unconnected monologues, prompt students not just to state their own point but to respond to previous points. Ask the next speaker, “What about you, Brandon? What do you think of what Talia said?”
Seed Pick a couple of people you know in class to start the conversation. Tell them ahead of time that you will call on them and prepare them to ask further questions of other students along the lines you are interested in pursuing.


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Building Blocks of Academic Writing Copyright © 2020 by Carellin Brooks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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