Making Curriculum Pop

Fortunately, making curriculum pop is a double entendre. While I believe classrooms should be filled with pop culture I also think they should use best practices that make learning pop. A student of mine once said in an end of year reflection, "Despite learning a lot, we had a lot of fun in Mr. Goble's class" - think about the assumptions about education embedded in that sentence for a hot minute.

Yes, those days when we manage to have fun are the days when our curriculum really pops. So this week I'm sharing some of my bestest resources to help teachers structure their classes in ways that make them bubble with intellectual energy and good vibes.

A year or two ago I took a class called "Discussion as a Way of Teaching" taught by Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill’s based on their book called...ready for this one...Discussion As A Way Of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democrati.... The thesis of their work is that people have to be taught discussion strategies - - especially in adult educational settings. The book actually starts by talking about the theories of power and democracy that inform their ideas. The authors drop mad Focualt and Marcuse then suddenly explode into a gazillion simple strategies to rock class discussions.

One of my favorites form the books was this series of discussion moves. Here are the discussion moves as plain text:

Move #1:Ask a question or make a statement that shows you are interested in what another person says.
Move #2: Ask a question or make a comment that encourages another person to elaborate on something they have already said.
Move #3: Make a comment that underscores the link between two people’s contributions.
Move #4: Use body language to show interest in what different speakers are saying.
Move #5:Make a specific comment indicating how you found another person’s ideas interesting/useful.
Move #6: Contribute something that builds on, springs from, what someone else has said. Be explicit about the way you are building on the other person’s thoughts.
Move #7: Make a comment that at least partly paraphrases a point someone has already made.
Move #8: Make a summary observation that takes into account several people’s contribution and that touches on a recurring theme in the discussion
Move #9: Ask a cause and effect question- for example, “can you explain why you think it’s true that if these things are in place such and such a thing will occur?”
Move #10: When you think it’s appropriate, ask the group for a moment’s silence to slow the pace of conversation and give you, and others, time to think.
Move #11: Find a way to express appreciation for the enlightenment you have gained from the discussion. Be specific about what it was that helped you understand something better.
Move #12: Find a way to express appreciation for the enlightenment you have gained from the discussion. Be specific about what it was that helped you understand something better.
Move #13: Create space for someone who has not yet spoken to contribute to the conversation.

I think you can use these "as is" in most high school classes. One day I'm going to try and remix them for middle and elementary school. But if you are ready to do the remix, please feel free to beat me to it. Send me the text and I'll make the doc look pretty. Anyway, I took their discussion moves and laid them out in a way that allows teachers or students to easily cut the moves out and laminate them. After that's done you can hand four or five random moves to each student in your class. I've used these in high school and college settings and despite working well ... they are fun.

If you're deep into point systems and accountability you can give each student their own copy of the moves sheet (below as PDF) and ask them to cut all the moves out and write their names on the back of each slip. This way when they make one of the discussion moves they hand you, or the facilitator their slip. At the end of the class you can total the moves up for participation points. Point grubbers love this method.

Either way you use the moves, it is important to keep in mind that structures like this are training wheels. You want to use them for a while until everyone feels comfortable then let discussions without them.

Don't ever think this stuff will take after one class - it usually takes about 10 discussions in the high school classroom for these bad boys to take flight sans slips. Like Eddie Kendricks said, it is important to "keep on truckin', baby."

The doc is attached below as a PDF. Maybe you can try one of the movies on one of our old Ning discussions? Say something cool to a MC POPPER (does this sound to close to POOPER?) for the first time? Best case scenario people use pictures to do Move #4?

My party shuffle just put ABBA on - yikes - what about "Waterloo"? Guilty confession, I saw Mamma Mia with my Nana this summer and I liked it. Despite being an awful movie with some horrible singing - it was fun. What you gonna do?

I digress - Don't be shy - join a discussion thread today! And please don't fixate on my Mamma Mia fandom.

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This is so powerful; I think something else that might be good to add may be more of a listening strategy. It kind of spins off of #10 and #13 (see how I totally hit up move #6 in there?? huh??? huh?? ;)--something about "while someone else is talking, don't just be thinking of your own follow-up question--let them finish and take some time before you just dive in w/ whatever you were going to say." Does that make sense?

Hey, so great to see you out here - as usual. I like your strategy idea. I think for the next remix I'll try to work with that. I'm also working with two teachers to do a series of annotation strategies so hopefully I'll get that out in the next few months.

You know you're such a rock star you should start blogging stuff. You always have a gazillion great resources to share. Hope you're enjoying the new gov and keeping things funky between the ORD & LAX.

This is a most valuable resource not just for teachers in the classroom but for anyone leading or moderating a discussion of adults -- I'm thinking of board of directors meetings, staff meetings, adult education in churches, workshops in community centers -- especiallly if its an ongoing group. Most group leaders underestimate the TRAINING that is needed to give a group the skills to have rich and full conversations -- For sure, few people ever got group skills training in their own education! This resource is an excellent checklist that any group leader can make use of as part of the orientation to any leadership task one takes on -- I've already got it downloaded -- thanks.
Yeah, that is the premise of the book. It's funny when I asked my undergrads what age level these were designed for they said "6th Grade." The tool (and book) were designed for adult education. Glad you liked it.

If you enjoyed this do check out yesterday's post and the playbook.

Great to have you here Liz!
Great resource! This will help my students understand what I mean when I require "meaningful" participation in their graded discussion groups.
Shirley - so glad you like it - they are great "training wheels"

Jackie - thanks for commenting - so glad you're finding this useful. They are an interesting set of "training wheels" and people do a lot of cool things with them. I think the spirit of experimentation is a good one - it is important to remind students that these moves were actually developed for college students!! We're never taught how to discuss!!

Happy New Year!


Thank you for this post. Your information is extremely helpful. I have discovered that the majority of my students would rather be seen as lazy than stupid. It is difficult to start and keep discussions flowing under the lazy vs. stupid mindset. I usually resort to direct questioning until the conversational spark occurs. Using the discussion moves in a sort of Round Robin format students can be assigned a particular discussion move, review the reading and develop a strategy question and response for their part in group. Let you know the outcomes.


Thanks for writing - So glad you like the tool. Do come back and let folks know how it went and note that it can take a almost five discussions with these "training wheels" for them to really pay off.

Is it possible for you to alphabetize the Nings created on your site? You have attracted so many who have created NINGS to Pop with yours, but I can't find what I need quickly any more! I was looking for assessment which might have been near the start, but gave up after a few minutes of getting side tracked by other Nings...Yes, I can be sleep deprived from reading all the good stuff on here too!

Just wondering and NOT wanting to add more to your plate. Thought maybe it was a feature you could click.

Thanks, Shawn
Hey Shawn - can you tell me a little bit more what you mean? A Ning is the word for a whole social network - so this = MC POP Ning, then there is Classroom 2.0 Ning etc. etc. So how are you using the word Ning.

For the big posts (like this) if you go to the nav bar up top - and you pull the menu down under "gallery" you see the "playlist" for the big blogs like this - what I call the playlist ... is that what you mean.

I'm glad you love the site and I'd like to help out/ improve the site but you'll have to clarify a bit more what you're interested in.

Thanks for being in the mix - as always!

Ok, when we go to MC pop and see the groups and their icons listed there. Is there a way to alphabetize the groups? Imagine you want to go to the Assessment group and then you start reading through the various groups until you find it. ...takes awhile~
I enjoy the playlist too always!



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