Podcast: How Teachers Can Build Student Led Discussions - Steve Barkley

Podcast: How Teachers Can Build Student Led Discussions

How Teachers Can Build Student Led Discussions

“Stop talking so much and make time for inquiry.” That’s the first of the six strategies that Alexis Wiggins and Tracy Hill share from their experiences as teachers and instructional coaches both nationally and internationally. They provide the “why” for empowering students to learn content deeper while developing critical success skills for life outside of school and specific strategies such as graphing discussions, rubrics, and peer coaching strategies. Implementing even just one or two of their tips will help you take your students and their thinking to the next level.

Email Tracy: tracyriyadh@gmail.com

Find Tracy on Twitter: twitter.com/tracyhillriyadh

Email Alexis: awiggins@ceelcenter.org

Find Alexis on Twitter: https://twitter.com/alexiswiggins

Read Alexis & Tracy’s article, “6 Strategies to Bolster Student Led Discussions”

Read Alexis’s book, “The Best Class You Never Taught”

Find the Spider Web Discussion Core Resources here.

Visit the CEEL Center website and find more resources here.

Subscribe to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast on iTunes or visit BarkleyPD.com to find new episodes!

Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:00.410] – Steve [Intro]

Hello and welcome to the teacher edition of Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud. The complexity of teaching is both challenging and rewarding, and my curiosity is piqued whenever I explore with teachers the multiple pathways for facilitating student engagement in the exciting world of learning. This podcast looks to serve teachers as they motivate and support their learners. Thanks for listening. I’m delighted that you’re here.

[00:00:32.890] – Steve

How teachers can build student led discussions Alexis Wiggins and Tracy Hill are joining our podcast today exploring student led discussions. They’re sharing experiences and insights from teaching both nationally and internationally, as well as serving as instructional coaches. I found their article titled six strategies to bolster student led discussions in an ASCD post, and I was anxious to invite them to the podcast. I’m looking forward to learn some strategies that I might apply myself as I work with teachers in PD and working with PLCs. So welcome Alexis and Tracy.

[00:01:21.120] – Tracy

Hi Steve. It’s good to be here.

[00:01:22.920] – Steve

I’m wondering if you’d give people a little bit of your background, especially noting your teaching experiences.

[00:01:29.230] – Alexis

Sure. I started teaching over 20 years ago in independent schools in the US, and then I had the opportunity to go and teach and live in five other countries around the world in international schools. I’ve mostly been a high school english teacher, but have dabbled in a little middle school spanish teaching and social studies as well. And I had the pleasure of working with Tracy as an instructional coach for a few years in the Middle east.

[00:01:59.830] – Tracy

So my teaching career started almost 30 years ago in Maryland. I did public school teaching for, I think about eight years and then made the move overseas. And I think I’ve taught in six different overseas countries. One of those countries I never got to actually. I was online for a year during COVID and then decided to stay in the States and made a move to come and teach with Alexis. We brought the band back together again.

[00:02:36.130] – Steve

That’s great. That’s great. Would you give us a definition, if you’ve got it, for what student led discussion means?

[00:02:46.850] – Alexis

I think student led discussion is really when you, as a teacher, let the students not only try and try again to lead their own learning and unpack conversations and inquiry and meaning through that kind of work, but it’s also really empowering students to build the soft skills that they need for college and career and life. Listening, questioning, asking, empathy. I always tell the story that when I was younger, I would spend all night preparing my discussions that I would lead for students, and I’d have pages and pages of notes and I’d be so nervous and if I didn’t get through all of them, what questions would I ask? What did I want the students to get to? And now, having learned so much and seen the power of student led discussions, I bring a blank piece of paper and I write down what…

[00:03:46.410] – Steve

Yeah, it’s really funny listening to you describe that, that all of that effort was going into student led. It sounds a little incongruent

[00:04:00.270] – Tracy

Exactly. As you’re talking about that, I was laughing, thinking that’s exactly what it was like spending so much time crafting. I can remember doing small book discussions or talking about a novel with a group of kids and making sure I had the best, most well crafted questions that were going to get at all the things I needed to make sure that they had taken away and had learned. And that’s so funny that you say, now you just bring the blank sheet of paper and they can tell you all that they need. Now, I know for us this is going off a teeny bit, but now I’ve been working with my 8th grade now and with the work that Alexis helped us of creating essential questions that go with our units, our literature and so we have know three to five essential questions, and that’s what we also bring to the table. So we’re not recreating things. We’re coming back to those common questions throughout the novel, throughout the unit and that also thinking about time, it might take a little bit of time on the front end to create those, although it’s one of my colleagues, he’s very good at creating them.

[00:05:21.750] – Tracy

We usually give him the job of creating those, but it takes that time on the front end, but then it pays off. It’s the same with student led discussions, that it might take some time on the front end to set that up, but then it’s going to benefit you as a teacher in the long run.

[00:05:40.590] – Steve

So, as I was reading through your article and thinking about the concept of student ownership and accountability within student led discussions, I was wondering if it kind of exists on a continuum. So is there a starting point for teachers that’s a little bit less – it’s student led, but not at the dynamic level further out on the continuum? Am I at all accurate in that?

[00:06:15.670] – Alexis

Yeah, I think teachers should do what they feel the most comfortable with. I don’t think we want every classroom to look exactly the same, but I will say that I have tried so many different styles of Socratic seminar, student led discussion, harkness, spider web discussion, whatever you want to call it, and for me, the most powerful format I’ve seen and the one that my book is about and that I share with teachers is really turning it over to the kids and training them how to lead and assess their own conversations. So I actually am pretty strict about it with myself, where I will put a time on the clock for high school students, it would be anywhere between 35 and 60 minutes, and I will not speak for that amount of time. I will listen, I will take notes, I will graph the conversation, and then, I might join the conversation later, ask a pointed question, or pick up on something someone else said and know. You kind of skipped over what Johnny was saying, but that was kind of an important point. Let’s get back to that. And then we kind of wrap it up and do the feedback.

[00:07:26.900] – Alexis

I find that that’s a lot more powerful. I talk in the article about a colleague who asked me to come in and observe how much talk time he had in a class where he was specifically trying not to talk as much. And he talked the majority of the time, and he was shocked when I timed it, and we were both surprised. So I think we talk a lot more than we think we do, and I think we like to hear ourselves talk a lot more than we would like to believe. And if you just shut up for like, 30 minutes or more, you’d be amazed what the kids will say. If I bite my tongue a little bit longer than I’m comfortable with every time, the kids almost always get where I wanted them to get and more, and they get a lot more out of it. So I’m pretty committed to that end of the continuum. But I think there are all kinds of teachers in classrooms, and teachers should do what they feel comfortable.

[00:08:23.970] – Tracy

I think teachers should also do what they feel comfortable, but I think that starting out with a real structure from the start is important. And I guess for me, a continuum is that you have that – so our structure that we use is based on also twelve principles that I worked with, some of the principles that Alexis had that were sort of like the expectations of the discussion. Then I worked with a teammate of mine, making sure that they were equitable, looking at diversity within our classrooms. And we start every discussion reviewing those twelve principles. So, for example, to be empathetic, to back up what we say with textual evidence, things like that, would be a principle. We have class commitments that we honor, that we create at the start of the year. For me, the start of the continuum is that. Putting those things into place, students are going to run the discussion. I am not sitting with the students. I am on the outside of the circle, listening, observing, taking notes. And then, as for me, as the continuum moves down, we kind of up the ante. Maybe today’s discussion isn’t just about who’s participating and how you’re balancing the discussion.

[00:09:44.340] – Tracy

Now, today we’re looking at textual evidence. As we move down the continuum, now we’re looking at, are you challenging classmates ideas? It’s nice to be kind and enjoying the conversation, but I’m watching some of you, and it looks like you’re maybe questioning something or maybe you’re not agreeing with something. So we might learn strategies. How do we respectfully disagree and engage in that? And then down the continuum, it might be coaching, which we can talk about in a little bit. How do we do the coaching? So for me, the continuum still would start with the group of students, these principals. I’m not talking, I’m on the outside. And then we can kind of build as you like.

[00:10:33.130] – Steve

It’s funny, I was going to come back with the coaching question before you laid it out there. The term that I’ve been using in my work, it took me a lot of years to find it, but it’s student learning production behaviors. So in a learning activity, there’s a set of behaviors that students use to learn, and frequently teachers have to teach those behaviors and coach those behaviors. And that’s where the empowerment of the students come. I’m kind of hearing there’s a set of learning strategies that students use and you reach the point of coaching.

[00:11:17.470] – Alexis

Yeah. And I think Tracy’s commitments are tied very much to the rubric that we use in our high school classroom discussions, which are a mix of academic sort of skills, like referencing the text to support what someone’s saying or what you’re saying, not just saying, “well, I think this.” And it’s like, well, where in the text does it support that? But they’re also behaviors. And so I think the rubric is really a mix of, for us, it’s a checklist rubric – did we do all this today? Did the conversation build? Did we listen? Were there side conversations and distracting behavior? Sid you do your work? Did you come prepared? Because we count on you, we want to hear from you, we depend on you. We’re a team. And so you’re right in saying that it really is building those learning behaviors as well as some academic skills that are really important to our disciplines.

[00:12:14.590] – Steve

I need to look at that rubric because it sounds exactly what I need for PLC meetings with teachers. It’s ownership and accountability.

[00:12:26.930] – Tracy

I’m sure a lot of this overlaps.

[00:12:30.210] – Steve

All of those things. Because, in effect, a high quality professional learning community should be a discussion led by the people who are sitting around the table looking at the student data or looking at the unit that they’re about to design together.

[00:12:50.310] – Alexis

Yeah, absolutely.

[00:12:52.150] – Steve

Well, in the article, you identified six strategies, and I wanted to ask you to take a moment or two to hit on each one of those, and then we’ll be sure to put the link to the article into the podcast. The first one, Alexis, you already hit on, which was stop talking so much.

[00:13:14.350] – Alexis

Yeah, you said it much more nicely. [laughter]

[00:13:15.940] – Steve

I’m just reading the way you wrote it in the article. [laughter]

[00:13:21.420] – Alexis

I said, just shut up. [laughter]

[00:13:25.410] – Tracy

That can be a new book. [laughter]

[00:13:28.210] – Steve

[laughter] It’s a follow up book. Stop talking so much. But there’s another piece to it – make time for inquiry. You want to take a moment on that? Make time for inquiry?

[00:13:38.780] – Alexis

Yeah. My father, the education reformer Grant Wiggins, always talked with his partner, Jay McTie about meaning making, and that was an important part of their understanding by design model. And you’ve got to make time for meaning, especially in the older grades. But really, in any grades, you can’t just deliver content and ask students to digest it and understand and learn. So there’s an important process where you’re learning content or you’re learning concepts, but you need to make meaning with them, and this is a wonderful tool for that. Student led discussion is one of the best tools I’ve ever seen for making meaning, because kids are working it out in real time. And like Tracy mentioned, know, you start building in scaffolding opportunities for them to challenge each. That’s a skill that students need to learn. How do you be polite and thoughtful and empathetic, but push back against groupthink or erroneous thinking? Because those are really important skills in life. And if we don’t help students develop that through time for inquiry and meaning making, then I think we’re actually doing a disservice. School cannot be about content delivery. And as my dad always said, just because you taught it doesn’t mean they learned it.

[00:14:54.190] – Alexis

And Spider web discussion, Socratic seminar, student led discussion, really allows you to see the learning happening in real time and assess whether you need to sort of go another way or spend a little more time unpacking that. But I think making time for that is vital in the classroom.

[00:15:13.500] – Steve

Tracy, how about taking us into the second one, which was graph the discussion.

[00:15:20.230] – Tracy

I’ll chat a little bit, and then I’ll let Alexis maybe go into more of the technical because this is something that I actually learned from Alexis and her book and graphing the discussion. But for me, so as you have that we mentioned the blank sheet of paper as you’re sitting on the outside of the group, as the teacher, you’re tracking, or what we call graphing the discussion of actually drawing lines on the paper between student to student. So on that paper, I might draw a circle. Around that circle, I would draw every student’s name and where they are sitting in the circle. And then as someone speaks, I might circle their name or put a dot on their name. They’re the first speaker, and then they might add something. And then the next person speaks, I draw a line to the next person. Then the next person speaks, I draw a line. And like Alexis has spoken before about Spider Web, that’s where that spider web visual comes from. So you’re hoping at the end of the discussion, it has the look of a spider web with all those strands holding the group together with that discussion.

[00:16:30.180] – Tracy

And then this is a way for students to take a look and visually see this. Is it a spider web? Are there strands that are, like, super heavy between some students going back and forth? Does it look equitable? What does this look like? Do we have strands that aren’t there? One of the principles is everyone participates. And again, that could be for a student that never speaks. They spoke once today. That’s great. Let’s really celebrate that there’s a sense of balance and order. Another principle. If you’ve spoken 20 times, maybe you want to speak ten. And the line to you is very dark because it’s going back and forth to you speaking. So that’s the graphing. And for me, it’s a reflective tool. It’s a reflective tool for me to see what the discussion looked like. It’s a way for students to see that. Often, we have students also graphing the discussion at the same time or when we do the coaching model that we’ll talk about, they’re actually graphing the discussion and taking that ownership.

[00:17:45.990] – Alexis

I will say, in my workshops, I’ll often show the web graphs from the beginning of the year and the end. And the paradox is that the volume goes down, so you’ll see many lines and like Tracy said, like dark lines and it’s kind of ugly. It’s an ugly web.

[00:18:05.550] – Alexis

And then by the end of the year, as they get better, like she said, it looks more balanced and you’ll see fewer lines and it’s sort, know, counterintuitive. Why would there be fewer lines? And it’s because there’s more listening and they’re building on each other’s ideas rather than idea, idea, idea, and it’s sort of this popcorn without really understanding that they’re developing this conversation together. So you can see it progress over time. It’s really powerful visual. And I think Tracy posts hers publicly on a board in the classroom. The kids kind of look at them. In my classroom, I have a yellow legal pad in a different color for every class, and they can kind of flip through and see the date. And, oh, look, this class got an A or whatever, and they like to kind of compare to their classmates in other sections.

[00:18:53.360] – Steve

When you describe that change in the appearance of the web, is the later one also connected to depth? Is there a depth to the discussion that changes the quickness of response back and forth?

[00:19:12.200] – Alexis

Yeah, I think there is generally a change in depth. That usually comes with the assessment piece. But the visual, I think, is more about – they really start listening to each other and they start building off each other’s ideas rather than, I think, in the beginning, most kids of any age really just want to say what they want to say and then someone will say, oh, that’s interesting. And I have this idea.

[00:19:43.230] – Alexis

And it winds up being superficial, even though they mean well and you have to sort of train them over time to see that we really need to listen. Someone might have said something really good, and we didn’t develop it because you were just thinking about your idea and wanted to share it. So I think the visual is more about the behavior over time. The depth also develops, but I think the visual doesn’t necessarily reflect that in the same way. I think for me, that comes with the codes. I put stars when there’s really insightful conversation.

[00:20:11.810] – Steve

Alexis, you had mentioned the rubric before, so why don’t you go a little bit further with that? And then, Tracy, why don’t you take it off of her conversation into talking about the peer coaching that you brought up?

[00:20:24.310] – Alexis

Yeah, I have to give all the credit to the master school in Dobbs Ferry, New York, which is where I got the rubric. And I’ve developed it a little bit since then, but pretty much it’s the same rubric that the english department developed before I got there, and it’s a rare example in my work. I don’t really like checklist rubrics very much. Those aren’t a style of rubric I use a lot for writing or presentation skills, but for this, I think it’s great. So basically, there’s nine points on our rubric. Everyone has participated more or less equally. The pace allows for clarity and thoughtfulness, but not boredom. There’s a lively sense of balance and order focuses on one speaker at a time. The discussion builds. Comments aren’t lost. The loud or verbose do not dominate. The shy or quiet are encouraged. Students listen carefully and respectfully to one another. There’s no side conversations, daydreaming on your laptop or phone, et cetera. That’s disrespectful. And same goes for sarcastic comments. Everyone’s clearly understood, and those who aren’t are urged to repeat or speak up. Students take risks and dig for deep meaning and new insights. Students back up what they say with examples, quotations, et cetera, and the text is referred to often.

[00:21:40.430] – Alexis

My husband is a world language teacher, and on his rubric he added years ago, students correct each other’s grammar and vocabulary errors. And that was kind of a game changer in the world language department when he was working as a world language teacher. So that’s the rubric that the English department developed and I’ve continued to use over the years, and it served me really well. And basically, if we do all of those things, it’s an A range grade. And if we do most of those things, it’s a B range grade, and about half it’s a C range grade. The grades in my class are formative, so they’re no count, but we do report them and record them. And I find that it’s really easy to have a checklist rubric. You don’t have to use that rubric for your classroom, but I do encourage you to build a rubric that’s like a checklist rubric. That’s just we did it or we didn’t. It’s very simple and straightforward at any age.

[00:22:30.660] – Tracy

With my teammates now, we have created a rubric in middle school English. It’s a little bit different, I think, as far as our grading system is a bit different in our middle than our upper school. But we have three main criteria that we look at on our rubric. So we have the twelve principles, so we do it a little bit differently. Those principles are what guide the conversation, and we reflect on how we did with that. But that’s more of a verbal informal reflection. And then we have a rubric that actually looks at – one is knowledge and understanding. So have I used textual evidence to back up my opinion? So some of it still ties in with the principles. We have building on the conversation and using empathy. And then we have making connections, whether that’s text to self, text to world, text to text, or any additional research that you bring to the table. So that’s how we’ve kind of laid ours out. But I think it depends on your team and what you want out of the discussions and also how your school proceeds with assessments and what works for you. I know some schools, you have to have a grade.

[00:23:53.650] – Tracy

You have to have it in the grade book if you’re using this time in class. Some schools are. No, that’s okay, this is formative. So I think that for the audience listening, I think there’s ways that you can tweak it for what works in your system.

[00:24:09.710] – Steve

The rubric provides the teacher what he or she needs for that.

[00:24:13.720] – Tracy

Exactly.

[00:24:15.170] – Alexis

And I would just finally say, put on the rubric what you want to see in discussion. So put behaviors that you want to see. And I think that’s an important piece. It’s not just academic, as you can see from ours, but in your classroom, what behaviors do you want to see and help students assess and self assess for that?

[00:24:34.730] – Steve

That makes it clear to the students right out there. How about the peer coaching piece, Tracy?

[00:24:40.270] – Tracy

So the peer coaching is something that a couple colleagues had shared with me, some ideas that they had observed other people using peer coaching. And then I just kind of ran with it over the last few years and developing it with colleagues and playing around with different systems. And so basically how it works is that if you would have a classroom, say, of 20 students, you’re going to partner those students up. So then you’re going to have ten partner groups, and let’s label those groups A and B, A group and B group, and you would have a small circle. So I think some people might have that fishbowl idea, but it’s way more than fishbowl for me. It’s much more planned, intentional, reflective. Not that fishbowl is bad, but it’s a bit deeper than that. So you would have, let’s say team A goes in. Team B is sitting on the outside. Some teachers prefer to have the student that you’re partnered with sitting behind you. Some teachers, it doesn’t matter as long as you can hear the whole group. So those people on the outside are now tracking the conversation of everyone inside the same spider web, but they’re now taking special notes of their coaching partner.

[00:26:06.940] – Tracy

That could be on a continuum. Maybe you start out with coaching that all you’re going to record is talk time. When does your partner build on someone else’s idea? When does your partner ask a question.

[00:26:23.230] – Tracy

And then you might add, when do they challenge? When do they use textual evidence, whatever that may be. So let’s say, Steve, you are my partner and you’re in team A, and you’re in the middle and you’re discussing whatever it is we’re discussing. I’m listening to the whole conversation. I’m graphing the whole conversation, but I’m really honing in on you. How are you participating? What are you bringing to the conversation? I might have a tally chart that I’ve created for kids. I might use a different color on my graph. It was actually a student of mine that gave that idea. So then when you come to coach with me, you see the red line is Steve, everybody. And then let’s say we let students discuss for 15 minutes, then they come out and now they’re coached. So you and I would chat, Steve, you’re doing a great job. Sometimes it’s also like, I guess a cheerleader, someone to support you. And then this is the beauty of it. You go back in. It’s like a game, right? You have half time. Your coach meets. You don’t wait until the next game to apply what feedback you just got.

[00:27:42.760] – Tracy

You don’t have to wait a week for me to give you feedback. You’re getting it right now in real time. So you go back in and you can apply that. And then you come out and now we switch our roles. And we’ve just seen some really, personally, I’ve seen some really amazing things happen with this. The relationships that students are building, that team aspect, the support aspect, the conversations I’m hearing with students. “You can do this. We just talked about this. I’m looking at your notes. It’s right there in your notes. You can do it.” Kids on the outside like, cheering them on. And I think that students, we try to do in our middle school, lots, we do whole group, we do small groups, we do coaching, we do something we didn’t write about in the article, which are silent student led discussions, something that we’ve also started. So we try to do all the things and give lots of variety. But I think that time and time again, students come back to report that they really love the coaching model. They don’t feel alone. They have that support.

[00:28:55.130] – Steve

It certainly hits the work that I’ve done with teacher coaching, that the growth occurs in conscious practice. So you’ve really created conscious practice. Plus the observing students are observing in a way that they can’t observe when they participate.

[00:29:14.990] – Tracy

Exactly.

[00:29:15.600] – Steve

Yeah. It’s just got learning built in all the way around. Well, we got two left from your article. So, Alexis, you want to talk a little bit about the use of essential questions?

[00:29:26.710] – Alexis

Yes. I love essential questions. I learned about them again from my Dad and his partner, Jay McTie. So I subscribe to their definition of essential question. And when I present on essential questions for faculty, sometimes there are some misconceptions, because an essential question really is a question that is conceptual, deep, can be asked and re-asked and answered in different ways. So a classic one in my classroom, which is a high school English 10th grade class, is what’s true, what isn’t, how do we know? And that is great for our unit on 1984. It’s great for our unit on media bias. It’s great for our unit on research, journalism, life. So we could start the year with a question like that and have a discussion, and then we could have students write about it after they’ve discussed and heard each other’s ideas. But then we could put it on a December midterm exam and ask them to use their course texts now to answer that same essential question. So an essential question really is a question that doesn’t have – it could have a yes or no answer. Is true democracy possible? Is a great essential question.

[00:30:50.720] – Alexis

It can really be debated which is the universal language, math or music? is a great essential question. And the thing about essential questions is that they’re sort of equitable in that they level the playing field. Everyone has an idea for a great essential question, so they’re great conversation and discussion starters. You don’t have to have a lot of knowledge to answer an essential question. What is the universe? Everyone has an opinion about that. But when I do that question with teachers, the math and the music teachers often have really interesting insights that they other people about. So I think it’s a great way to initiate discussion. And like Tracy already said at some point earlier, the students will use them as anchors. If you’re using them kind of to frame your entire year, course, the students will refer back to them often. And in our classroom, we actually put them up on the wall so that they’re just there and the kids will just in the middle of discussion, turn around and just sort of point and reference them. No, but it’s like that. What’s true? What isn’t? How do you know? Or what is a hero?

[00:32:01.180] – Alexis

Can a hero do bad things and still be a hero? Is a classic hero’s journey one, but it talks about our lives as well, so I love the use of essential questions. The one sort of misconception about them that I’ll say is that they’re misused a lot in education. So often in curriculum mapping, people will say, what are your essential questions? What is a cell? Well, that’s not an essential question. That’s a key question. That is a very important question in a biology class. But it’s not essential by the definition of Wiggins and McTie. And so the essential question, the ones that can be asked, re asked, they have debatable answers. They’re nuanced and complex, they’re interesting. Those are the ones that you really want for student led discussion and conversation.

[00:32:46.960] – Steve

Is it fair to say I might change my answer to an essential?

[00:32:50.710] – Alexis

Yeah.

[00:32:53.350] – Steve

Okay, the last part, Tracy, if you want to wrap us up here, the last part of your article said spread the word.

[00:33:01.450] – Tracy

I think that what we’ve talked about before, working with colleagues, working with teams, being able to share the things that are happening in your classroom, I know recently we had a professional development day at the school where Alexis and I are currently working, and I think on the coaching student led discussion method, and we had some upper school teachers take a chance with that and try it, which was really great to see. So that’s just having that common knowledge. I think when Alexis talks about in the rubric that everyone in the upper school using that rubric is using the same language, in our middle school, we have the twelve principles that students are used to, I think it just makes sense for students, it makes it easier for teachers. So I think common language, supporting one another, all those things that tie into just spreading all the great things that we’re doing in our classrooms, great.

[00:34:04.100] – Alexis

And I think really for leaders taking the opportunity, any leadership or administrators or coaches that could be listening too, really highlighting the work by spotlighting those things for other faculty. So we were really excited to be able to offer the 8th grade ELA team that Tracy’s a part of an opportunity to share this work with some middle school and upper school teachers in a PLC. And that’s what led to so much of this. So it’s great when everyone’s doing these things, but we’re all busy. We don’t have time to necessarily see each other’s classes as much as we would like to. But when you really see a presentation or get to spotlight someone’s work, even just in 10 minutes in a faculty meeting, I think it can make a real difference. So as a result of Tracy and her team’s presentation, the entire 10th grade team tried it. We had a number of teachers who were really enthusiastic about it. Now we’re using it in high school and so it’s exciting for the middle school team that they got to share that and the students will all benefit from.

[00:35:05.780] – Steve

Great, great. Well, I will post the link to the ASCD article in the lead-in to the podcast so folks can find it. Alexis, tell folks a little bit about your book as a resource.

[00:35:21.210] – Alexis

Sure. Yeah. It’s called, “The Best Class You Ever Taught” and it’s published by ASCD and it really goes into depth the history of how I developed this type of student led discussion that I call spider web discussion and really offers teachers just a very practical approach. So if you’re ever interested in trying this in your classroom, pick up the book, you’ll read it. It’s quick read and you’ll have everything you need to know, how to just start it the next day in your classroom. And there’s a lot, I think, as Tracy mentioned, I’m so grateful to her and teachers and coaches like her because the best part is sort of to take what works for you and really adapt it and develop it and make it better. Now that Tracy’s introduced us to peer coaching as part of that student led discussion, now we’re all growing and benefiting as teachers and students. So it’s not really a one size fits all kind of philosophy. It’s a shift in classroom culture that really empowers students.

[00:36:18.490] – Steve

So Alexis, how can folks connect with you and find out about the book and resources that you have available?

[00:36:26.240] – Alexis

Yeah, I have a webpage where people can contact me. Sign up for my newsletter, find all that information. It’s ceelcenter.org. And I’m also active on Twitter at the handle at @alexiswiggins.

[00:36:47.110] – Steve

And Tracy, how about connecting with you?

[00:36:49.320] – Tracy

People can connect with me through email. That would be tracyriyadh@gmail.com at Gmail, or at the handle @tracyhillriyadh.

[00:37:03.350] – Steve

Well, thank you both so much for what you’ve shared today. I got so many ideas running through my head of things that I want to explore out further, and I’m sure that’s going to be true for many of our listeners. Much appreciate your time.

[00:37:20.880] – Alexis

Oh, we’re so happy to be here. Thanks for having us.

[00:37:23.050] – Tracy

Our Pleasure. Thank you.

[00:37:26.330] – Steve [Outro]

Thanks for listening in, folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.

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