Class Discussions

Class Discussion Guidelines

Objective: To promote the intelligent exchange of ideas and to develop skills that make exchanging ideas beneficial.

  • Someone begins the discussion with a high-level question or a quotation from the material under consideration and a reaction to that question/quotation.
  • If someone wishes to respond, she/he raises a hand and waits to be called on by the discussion moderator.
  • If one does not raise his/her hand, no credit will be given for any comments.
  • People who have not yet spoken will take precedence over those who have already commented.
  • Be sure your comments relate to what has been stated before you, to show that you do know how to listen.
  • If you wish to speak in opposition to the ideas of another, do so in a fashion that shows a difference of opinion and not disdain for previous comments.
  • Your grade will come from the frequency and quality of your participation. (This may include raising your had after your first commentary even if you are unable to speak again).
  • When about 15 minutes remain in the discussion time, the moderator will stop the discussion and allow anyone who has not spoken to make a brief statement.
  • Remember to keep the focus on the material being considered. New ideas should flow logically from the material with a new quotation or reference to the text at hand.
  • This discussion occurs among peers. The teacher will serve as a moderator or recorder of student comments. Talk and respond to your peers; avoid looking at the teacher.
  • At first, this Socratic approach may seem stilted, but as more discussions are experienced, the more natural these will become.
  • Grades from these discussions may eliminate the need for a few essay tests throughout the year.

Note: Any student who would like to perform the duties of the moderator may volunteer to do so. Their grade would then be based on their overall control of the discussion, as well as the quality of their opening question.

Discussion Stems

When you are engaging with a fellow learner, you might say:


  • It’s like….
  • What I’m hearing is….
  • In other words….


  • Could you clarify what you mean by _____?
  • Louder please.
  • Could you give me an example of that?
  • Could we come up with a common definition for _____.

Claim A Position & Support It

  • In my opinion __________, and her is my evidence…
  • Not everyone will agree with me, but …..
  • I agree, because …..

Respectful Disagreement

  • I respectfully disagree, because…
  • What evidence do you have to support that…
  • Good point, but on the other hand ….

Extending/Building On Ideas

  • This reminds me of…
  • Your comment on ______ made me think about….
  • I wanted to add on to (insert name)’s comment ….