If you have been following my blog for the past year, you will know that I love discussions. Discussions, however, can be a slippery slope. If you have a discussion and the same two people keep raising their hands it doesn’t do much to add accountability to the entire class. That is why this year for my Holocaust Literature unit I did a hybrid format.
A Little Background
For this particular unit, I had a class of 18 students reading four different novels concurrently in a Literature Circle format (Click here to read about how I facilitate meaningful literature circles). However, I still wanted to do at least one day of whole-class discussion so we could talk about the common themes among the novels and current events. I decided do mix together an online medium + face-to-face communication to reach all of my goals.
How to Implement a Hybrid Discussion
1. Choose your online medium
I used Google Classroom for my online medium, which is wonderful because it is FREE! MY entire district had “Gone Google” so it was easy because my students were familiar with it. Edmodo is another free service that allows your students posting capabilities.
2. Post Weekly Prompts
Every Monday, I posted a few prompts to our online discussion forum based on a weekly topic.
Fellow Google Classroom users: I simply posted the prompts as assignments they appeared in our class feed. Students wrote their responses as “comments” so that everyone could read them, instead of “turning them in” like normal GC assignments.
I liked to post at least three prompts so students could choose the one they felt most passionate about. Because we were reading 4 different novels, I had to make sure that the prompts dealt more with theme than specific details. However, I instructed all students to use textual evidence in their responses. Students had until Thursday to post their response.
Here is an example of a Monday prompt discussion from my Holocaust Literature Circle unit. Our weekly topic was “Silence.”
Choose one of these statements that you either strongly agree with or strongly disagree with. Explain your stance, using evidence from your novel to support your answer.
- Silence may be safer, but it is not better.
- Silence encourages ignorance.
- If speaking up puts others at risk, then silence is necessary.
3. Encourage Responses to Others
Besides posting an original response to one of my prompts, students also had to respond to another classmate’s post. Google Classroom offers a twitter-esque format where students can put an “@” symbol in front of the classmate’s name whom they are responding to. This sends that student a notification that someone responded to them. Oftentimes, this prompted them to write another post – on their own! – to emphasize their point.
4. Review Responses
This post isn’t just about doing a Google Classroom discussion, it’s about doing a hybrid discussion. This step is about transitioning from the online discussion to the class discussion. On Thursday night after my students responses are due, I scan all of the responses to find some that I want to quote in our Friday discussion.
Two things to consider when choosing good responess
- Has the response gotten a lot of online feedback from students?
- Is it saying something new?
I would choose a few stand-out responses and would make those into slides for our Friday Discussion.
5. Facilitate an in-person discussion
On Friday, I would have the entire class circle up their desks and we would discuss the topic from the week. Sometimes I would use one of the other discussion formats (such as Speed Dating or Fluid Debate). Other times I would simple put my stand-out responses on the board and have an open floor discussion.
When students saw their responses posted on the board two things happened:
- Students realized that I was actually reading their posts so they put more effort into them
- Students wanted to be the “stand-out” response and so put more effort into them
As you can see, these were both win-win results.
How to Grade a Hybrid Discussion Using Common Core State Standards
There are three main components that go into my Hybrid discussion, so I found it was easiest to print a blank spreadsheet so I could just make marks throughout the week as students finished a component.
Requirements for full points for the online post
- Valid use of textual evidence (CCSS RL.1)
- Response is on topic and responds to literature (CCSS W.9)
- Evidence of thought put into response (Effort grade)
Requirement for full points for classmate response
- “Tagging” original author in response so they receive a notification (CCSS W.6)
- Saying WHY you are responding (the difference between “I agree with you” and “I agree with you because…) (CCSS W.1)
Requirements for full points for Friday discussion
- Make at least one contribution to the discussion (CCSS SL.1)