Tuesday, September 8, 2015

10 Discussions with Google Classroom

It was only the third day of school when a girl in my modern world history class said, "Mr. Zahner, isn't there a way we can do this without paper?" As I looked around the room to see the nods of agreement, my excitement had to catch its breath before I responded.


Apparently, the school had a shortage of paper last May, and it became quite the issue. You see, I'm new to the school, and I'm new to students who are so comfortable with digital technology. 

Since we were already on Google Classroom, I suggested that we try the new question tool. Here are some of the types of discussions that my students and I will have this year. 


1. Ranking

One of the quickest ways to infuse critical thinking into a discussion is to prompt students to rank something. The important thing to remember is to expect that they provide reasons for their decisions. 

2. Predicting

Making predictions is one of those skills we need to practice regularly. Predict the outcome of an experiment. Predict the probability of heads or tails out of x coin tosses. Predict the main idea of a paragraph after reading the topic sentence. Finish off the activity by testing the predictions and following up with replies that evaluate the accuracy of the predictions.  

3. Reflecting

As far as classroom routines go, reflection should be a non-negotiable. How else are we to gain depth with anything we study? Ask students to review their notes and reflect on one thing that came easy to them and one that they was (or is) a struggle. This discussion opens up opportunity for cooperative learning.  

4. Summarizing

If your students are taking notes or internalizing information, summarizing is a great way to help them distill the main ideas and make critical connections. By sharing individual summaries on Classroom, students can observe peer responses and make comments about keywords or ask questions for clarity wherever necessary. 

5. Sharing Results

One of the most effective instructional strategies is identifying similarities and differences. When your students share their results (for almost anything, any subject), they can analyze the results as a whole class and ask questions about how some results are the same and some differ. 

6. Inquiry-Based Learning

Learning by asking questions is as critical as it gets. The fact that this even needs to be discussed is a sign of the times and how much the "wheel" has been reinvented. I like to use inquiry to start units and new topics. What better place to do it than on the stream where students will regularly check for assignments and announcements. 

7. Project Updates

Speaking of announcements ... How about project updates? When they come from your students, it's a great way to set mini-deadlines that also build intrinsic motivation.

8. Exit Tickets

If you need a quick check for understanding or a 3-2-1 reflection, why not use the question tool on Classroom? My favorite part on the tool is the ability to assign a score. 

9. Silent Discussion

Sometimes a silent discussion is all you need. make sure you don't dominate with feedback that shuts down the students. Ask probing questions to dig deeper and expect more critical thinking. 

10. Synthesis Writing

Have students start with one aspect or theme related to the lesson topic. Rotate after a minute (or so), and have students add the next detail, example, or part of a sequence as they relate to their assigned theme. Rotate as many times as there are themes. 

The App

The mobile works well, too. Even though most of my students have laptops with them, they prefer to use the mobile app because it's quick and easy to manage along with a notebook. Not to mention the text they sneak here and there. 

The image below is from a class with only eight students. This was a question I made on the fly to meet the needs of my students. 

Digital technology lets us do that!