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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Humm, no Ning does not have that option yet - I have the option to display groups by the following categories...

I usually have it set to "latest activity" - as far as I know there is no assessment group. Was that maybe some related group? Do you remember the content you were looking for?

FWIW - You can always search for content using the MC POP search bar in the upper right hand corner of the page.

Thanks again for writing!

OK! Thanks and I will try that feature as well...Not sure WHERE the assessment group went...but I am sure I will happen upon them again. :)
You've got to be mixing it up with something else - but again - use that search bar and see if you can locate the goods. Keep in touch! Ryan:)
Great resource! I'd also like to suggest for further reading:

Vella, Jane Kathryn. 2002. Learning to listen, learning to teach: The power of dialogue in educating adults. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Isaacs, William. 1999. Dialogue and the art of thinking together: A pioneering approach to communicating in business and in life. 1st ed. New York: Currency.

Thank you for the additional suggestions - they are on my Amazon wish list ! :)
This seems to be a good tool to help with "21st Century" skill of Communication & Collaboration. These discussion training wheels seem to be a good way to encourage support and understanding of the other’s in the group. This may not be an intrinsic instinct with some of the students differing learning modalities but is obviously essential for an inclusive and ”safe” group discussion environment. In this way, it provides an avenue for the growth of the group’s individuals, and therefore, the group as a whole. Because the student’s are free to choose the questions that they connect to, and are also, possibly, being prompted along a path of emotional growth to a higher level of understanding, I think that makes it a differentiated strategy. To further the differentiation, you could create/remix some of the moves to be more movement oriented. Maybe having the students move across the room to stand near the person whose comments or points they are elaborating on (stole that from you :) ), allowing for a graphics based connection or summary of others ideas (Venn diagram? Graphic?) as a way of indicating understanding and providing clarification for themselves or others group, or maybe a physicalization that indicates a show of support or agreement with another speaker’s ideas (like a raised index finger to show “+1”). Idk, just thoughts.

btw, moves 11 & 12 are duplicates
This is a helpful resource for Socratic Circles/Seminars. I often do a "double circle" discussion where the outer ring is listening and the inner ring is discussing, and then they switch places. This allows the outer ring to take on listener roles, which can include tabulating the activities of the inner ring. With this list, they could actually give a breakdown of what kinds of activities went on! This would be much more specific than what I've had them do in the past.
Karissa, Cool ideas! Yeah this ain't perfect but they are a great set of "training wheels" - they actually wrote the roles for adult ed!

Just to let you know that I've been using your discussion prompts for a couple of years now and they continue to bring richer discussion to my classes.  I've even used them as blog prompts when I want my students to have authentic chat on our blogs.  Many thanks for sharing such a versatile and effective resource.  Cheers .... Jeanette
Jeanette - thanks so much for writing - this is a playlist "cover" so we really owe Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill! I'm so glad this has been helpful - have you been able to check out the related ANNOTATION & READING WITH YOUR PEN PDF & JOURNAL ARTICLE. I hope you're groovy "down under" - it is great to have you in the mix!



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