Discussions are the cornerstone of my teaching style.  However, as much as students love having an open forum to share their thoughts, there are only so many “open discussions” we can have before the format gets bored and redundant.  We end up with the same speakers sharing their strongly held opinions while the rest of the class sits with glazed eyes.  That led me to create a new discussion style:  “Speed Dating Discussion.”

My 8th graders engaged with our To Kill a Mockingbird speed dating discussion

The Basic Idea:

One set of students stays sitting in chairs while the other group rotates around.  They spend a few minutes with one of the “sitting” students discussing the current topic on the board.  When the buzzer rings, they move on.  It’s just like speed dating, but the goal is to end with debate, not a date.


There is a small amount of prep that goes into this.  First, I created an overview sheet that explained the concept to my students and included a graphic organizer for them to fill out to give them some accountability.  Then, I create a slideshow that had 7 discussion topics, one on each slide.  You can have as many topics as you’d like.  And that’s it.  Prep over.


I set up my classroom to have a circle of desks.  I had my “sitting” students sit on the inside of the circle so the other half could just rotate around the outside.  It just made more logistical sense in my classroom.  Set up the desks and then divide your class into two groups, one that stays sitting and one that rotates.  Explain the concept to your kids.

 If you’d like, try showing this 2-minute clip from Gilmore Girls (try to hide the shock when your students don’t know what Gilmore Girls is) that shows a classroom appropriate glimpse at speed dating.


Here is one of my students filling in his graphic organizer through Google Docs

Again, I used a simple graphic organizer that I assigned to my kids through Google Classroom.  We have gone 1:1 this year so each student has a Google Chromebook.  However, I didn’t want them to focus on filling out the organizer the entire time.  I had a timer going on the board and for 2 minutes they had to have “lids down” and just have a conversation.  After that, I gave them 1 minute to briefly record their thoughts on the organizer.  Giving them specific time sections for conversing vs. writing allowed them to manage their technology.


I just used this today and as soon as I finished I couldn’t wait to write this post.  I absolutely loved the way this turned out.  Some key things I loved:

  • All students got to share their thoughts, not the just ones who always volunteer
  • Students hate sitting awkwardly, so if they had finished talking about the specific topic on the board they would ask spin-off questions.  This was so exciting to me!  I found them asking questions like, “Do you think Harper Lee purposefully was vague about Tom Robinson?”  and saying things like “Okay…but I mean, do you really like having Scout as the narrator?”  They were engaging in each other and the text in a way I hadn’t seen before.
  • Students were still accountable.  The graphic organizer was easy enough for them to jot down ideas without consuming all of their time.

I encourage you to try this in your own classroom!  If you’d like to buy my overview and graphic organizer, you can purchase it here at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.