How to let students lead the conversation

Four tips for classroom discussion

Try these four tips from Facing History and Ourselves for creating a safe and reflective space for a difficult topic. Teachers set the standards for discussion, then let students drive the agenda.

  1. Start with yourself. Take stock of your own feelings and ideas about this issue. Take ownership of the lens that you bring to the classroom community. Students may have experiences that are similar to or different from yours that inform their responses.

  2. Establish, or revisit, a classroom contract with norms for discussion. Ask students, “What do you need to be able to have this conversation?”

  3. Give students the chance to reflect before discussion begins. Try a journal prompt like “What personal experiences have informed my thinking about this issue?

  4. Use effective teaching strategies that encourage active listening and consideration of multiple perspectives.

To learn more, see Fostering Civil Discourse: a short resource from Facing History and Ourselves.