Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Instructional Strategy: Discussion Web

Okay, today was seriously close to the best day of school this year (minus the last 5 minutes when I was frantically trying to pass out our clay birds I had forgotten).  Today I introduced the new instructional strategy of a discussion web.  My class loves to argue so I approached the discussion web as a way to argue or “prove their point!”  Of course we discussed immediately that we were arguing to prove our point not to yell or hurt others’ feelings.  First I modeled the idea of arguing to prove a point that gray is seriously the best color!  It is really, didn’t you know!  They quickly got the idea. I posed the question to the class, “Is it okay to step on a living thing such as an ant, beetle or spider.”  It was the perfect day for discussion because we’ve been learning about living and nonliving things all week.  Today we went on a nature walk classifying both living and nonliving things.  After I posed the question, I explained how they would need to first argue/prove their point as their partner.  Once partners argued their point they needed to come to a compromise or consensus and move to one side of the argument: yes or no.  I then gathered students back and told them they were going to once again get partnered up with another group (so now we are in groups of 4) to argue/prove their point.  Groups had to come to a compromise once again.  Finally we gathered as a class and each group shared their thoughts and ideas as to why it is okay or not okay.  Three of our four groups decided it was not okay to kill a living thing while one group proved that it was okay.  The discussion was amazing and they used prior knowledge from our environment study to share why insects both help and harm our Earth.   They referred back to our nature walk and how we left the beetle bug alone to crawl and live but picked the dandelions which are now dead.  One child used her personal experience with an ant home invasion to argue why it is okay to step on an ant.  I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding experience for everyone.  I feel that discussion webs provide multiple chances for learning as students build on prior knowledge, use information from texts, work cooperatively and are engaged in all literacy areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking.  Furthermore, students are having to think for themselves and will have enduring understanding especially the next time the see an ant and consider stepping on it or picking up a dandelion growing in the grass.

For more information on discussion webs go here:


  1. Rebecca,
    I LOVE this idea! I don’t know that I would have been brave enough to try a discussion web with 1st graders but the fact that it worked so well for your Kindergarteners I am curious to try it. How much modeling did you have to do with it? And did they understand it right away or was there a lot of confusion? I think this may be something they would love to do – especially this time of year when arguing seems to be an everyday occurrence. What a good way to make it positive and productive. Thanks for sharing your great idea!

  2. You should definitely give it a try! I modeled how to prove my point first with several reasons why I think gray is the best. Then with a volunteer I modeled how to prove why I think it's not okay to step on a living thing. My volunteer said reasons why it was...I pointed out how to use information we already know to prove our point. Then I compromised and decided my partner had some really good points I hadn't thought of so I switched my viewpoint. Then the kids were grouped with a partner to begin. It was manageable and there were no arguments (which is unlike most of our day).
    I then checked in with them to see that they all came to a compromise. We regrouped and I reviewed how they would repeat the process with a group of 4. They were very motivated by this activity and I would definitely use this strategy again.