Grade Levels: K-8
Social Studies Strands: Civics/Government, Geography, Economics, & History
- Deep Learning
- Collaborative conversations foster effective communication and collaboration skills. Depending on the nature and topic of conversation, they have the potential to foster critical thinking, citizenship, and creativity as well.
- Higher Student Achievement
- This strategy has a significant and positive effect on student achievement by engaging students in discussions that build knowledge, skills, and dispositions for success.
- Student Engagement
- Increase student engagement through active participation where students take ownership over learning new content, while providing an opportunity for teachers to gather feedback from students, to determine whether they are learning the concept taught.
- Collaborative conversations help students develop social awareness and relationship skills while engaging in academic conversations.
- Students learn from each other as they discuss a topic in a way that builds understanding as well as communication skills.
What: (Description of the Strategy)
Collaborative conversations can be facilitated in a variety of ways to teach and test a wide range of learning outcomes. You can use them independently or in combination with other instructional strategies as a part of a larger learning experience.
- Context: Collaborative conversations can be used before, during, after, and throughout the learning process and are often used as a means to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate new information necessary to completing a learning task.
- Physical Environment: They can be completed by students in pairs or small groups during face-to-face instruction or distance learning. Depending on the strategy used to guide the conversation, students can also benefit from the physical movement required to engage in discourse.
- Set a time limit. To ensure the conversations remain on task and provide enough time to complete the activity, set a reasonable time limit that forces students to focus on the topic and work efficiently to complete the conversation.
- Model the process. Present one group with a topic or question and ask them to engage in the conversation while the rest of the groups observe. Help students identify effective communication skills by identifying the kinds of comments, questions, and behaviors that help and hurt the conversation.
- Provide explicit instruction. If the conversation includes the use or completion of a graphic organizer or other representation of their thinking, it’s critical that you provide explicit instruction on how to use those tools before asking students to use it themselves.
- Use, reflect on, and repeat the process. Provide students with frequent opportunities to engage in collaborative conversations and reflect on what they learned to help them internalize communication and thinking skills.
How: (How to set up the Strategy)
Since collaborative conversations can take on a variety of forms, the setup required for each conversation will be unique to the discussion format you intend to facilitate. Therefore, no one setup will work for all conversation formats. To determine the setup required, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I want my students to learn?
- How do I want my students to learn it and demonstrate their learning?
- What should I be listening for as my students collaborate?
The answers to those questions will help you identify the best collaborative conversation strategy to use to teach and test the intended learning outcomes. For example, if you want your students to analyze primary sources to evaluate the reasons for declaring independence from Great Britain, you can use the Jigsaw method (one of several collaboration tools) to break students into small groups and evaluate grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence.
1. Divide students into Jigsaw groups with as many students in each group as there are grievances to analyze.
- If you want them to analyze 6 grievances or 6 groups of grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence, break students into groups of 6.
- The Jigsaw Method works best when each group includes the same number of students. If there isn’t a way to divide students into equally sized groups, place the extra students in groups and assign two group members of the group the same grievance to analyze.
2. Assign one of the grievances to each person in the Jigsaw group.
- After modeling the process, ask students to work independently to analyze the grievance(s) they are assigned and become an expert on that chunk of content. This helps them make meaning of the content for themselves before collaborating with others to share, compare, and deepen their understanding.
- You can enhance this strategy by introducing movement into the process. Consider posting each grievance on large chart paper throughout the room and have students move to the chart paper that corresponds with their assigned grievance(s).
3. Once students have analyzed their grievance(s) or chunk of content independently, have students meet in expert groups to share, compare, and deepen their understanding while working together to prepare a presentation summarizing their findings to share with their original Jigsaw group. This gives them an opportunity to fill knowledge gaps, clear up misconceptions, and reinforce important concepts.
- Teachers can enhance this strategy by using a graphic organizer like the Jigsaw Graphic Organizer (shown below) to record their thoughts and prepare their presentation to deliver to their original Jigsaw group.
4. Once their presentations are prepared, experts return to their Jigsaw group.
- Each expert then takes turns presenting their new expertise while their group members listen, take notes, and ask questions. While one student presents their chunk of information, all students are learning from them.
5. Assess all students on all the content learned.
- This assessment can take the form of a simple quiz, writing response, or group presentation.
- Regardless of the assessment format, ensure that all students are responsible for learning all the content covered.
Digital/Virtual Application of the Strategy:
In a virtual classroom using a video meeting platform like Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, you can still facilitate collaborative conversations through the Jigsaw method.
Present the assignment to the Jigsaw groups in the main meeting room before dividing students into expert groups through breakout rooms or new meeting rooms you set up previously.
Students can collaborate on a graphic organizer or prepare a presentation to share using Google Docs, Slides, or Jamboard.
Graphic Organizers: (PDF and interactive digital)