Reading, Writing &
Discussion in Social
Promoting Critical Thinking Skills
D.C. Everest Social Studies
D.C. Everest Area Schools Weston, WI 54476
Argumentative literacy ability to persuade, to debate,
to clarify, explain why,
evaluate, make judgments
Mike Schmoker states that
given a good text, an arresting
issue,students like to argue, in
small groups or as a class.
Argument teaches them to
think and is about the best
inducement we have for getting
them to read purposely and
write with passion and energy.
Results Now: How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in
Teaching and Learning
Evidence suggests that a high quality,
common curriculum—including purposeful
reading, writing and discussion is the most
powerful factor that affects learning.
Continue to use Thinking Like a Historian framework
to focus students when reading
Continue to use Doug Buehl’s reading strategies
Remember that reading helps students increase their
In choosing texts, look for high quality fiction and
non-fiction that are likely to produce strong opinions
and varied interpretations such as two texts in which
the authors present opposing views. - Schmoker
The evidence is clear that writing
improves all academic subject
No matter how the writing variable has been
measured, the results are the same: as emphasis
on classroom nonfiction writing grows, student
achievement improves. We have evidence not only
of reading and writing score improvement but of
scores in math, science, and social studies
improving as well.
Emphasis on non-fiction writing
Continue to have students write essays/DBQs
Have students revise writing (process writing)
Have students write short summaries
Will look into the writing programs that evaluate
writing online (e.g., My Access)
Despite the importance of academic
dialog [discussion], most students
don’t engage in it until college or
later. Unfortunately, according to the
Learning 24/7 study, they found
evidence of “academic dialog and
discussion” in only 0.5% of the 1,500
classes they observed.
Schmoker, Results Now, p. 66.
Discussion – Reasons to Use
Can increase comprehension/learning
The teacher can use to check for understanding
Can debate controversial issues
Can discuss issues/topics and work toward better
understanding/consensus/see different perspectives
Students have opportunity to practice their oral
Helps create a more democratic society
The causative relationship that
exists between discussion and
tolerance has long been one of the
most powerful rationales used by
those who advocate the need for
discussion-rich environments in a
Diana Hess, Author
Controversy in the Classroom
Only 23% of adult in the United States
engage in “cross-cutting” political talk
(talking with someone with a different
People that engaged in “cross-cutting”
political talk became more tolerant.
Talking only with people who agree with you
can cause your views to become even more
Diana C. Mutz, 2003
Levels of Questioning
To assess students’ critical thinking - use higher level questioning in
Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy
Discussions provide opportunities for
teachers to be formatively assessing
As students have discussions with a partner
or in a small group, teachers should be
listening for evidence of understanding.
Teachers should be “eavesdropping” on
Turn and Talk
Think Pair Share
3 x 3 Discussion
Four Plus One
2 x 2 Rotating Debates
Structured Academic Controversy
Debates –Socratic Seminar
Turn and Talk
•Teacher poses question/idea
•Students talk for 20 seconds to a minute
or two depending on the question
•Allows shy students, verbally challenged students to
“try out/practice their responses.”
•Teacher uses phrase “Pachia, what did you and your
partner come up with?” (This takes some pressure off
of the individual.)
•Should be using this strategy a minimum of 2-3 times
per typical class period
Turn and Talk
Turn and talk to
your partner about
have used from our
Think - Pair - Share
1. Teacher poses a problem or asks an
open-ended question to which there may
be a variety of answers.
2. Teacher gives the students ‘think time’
and directs them to think about the
3. Following the ‘think time’ students turn
to face their Learning Partner and work
together, sharing ideas, discussing,
clarifying and challenging.
4. The pair then share their ideas with
another pair, or with the whole class. It
is important that students need to be
able to share their partner’s ideas as
well as their own.
Think - Pair - Share
Assess yourself – on
a scale from one to
five – how have you
been doing at
Do you use the
results to alter
• Students have an
opportunity to process
what they have read by
organizing and explaining it
• Research shows that
retelling increases quality
• It allows a teacher to
assess a student’s
1. Explain to students the
steps of how to retell and
why its important. Model it.
2. Use a graphic organizer or
an appropriate handout.
3. Have students work in pairs
4. Have students alternate
retelling. Give person A 3-4
minutes to explain item #1
on worksheet, agenda, or
4. Then move from
Pair/Share format to
Large group and get
feedback from class.
5. Go to next worksheet
item. Have B explain to A.
6. Return to large group
7. Repeat until completed.
*Begin with shorter readings , move
toward more complicated texts.
Person A reads “Misuses of Oral Language in the
Classroom – Poverty, Language, and perceived Skill”
Person B reads “Gender Differences – The InitiateRespond-Evaluate Model” pg. 22
A tells B
B tells A
3 X 3 Discussion
This format works well when you
have three differing viewpoints such
as Patriot, Loyalist, and Moderate. It
can also be used to make the the
Socratic Circle a little smaller.
Students sit in rows
The rest of the students sit
in rows behind the center
Students rotate forward
every couple of minutes. The
students who are in the
discussion then rotate to the
Four Plus One/College Study Group
1.Students sit in small groups of four
people plus one observer.
2.Students are told that the purpose
of the discussion is for everyone to
come to a better understanding,
not to “show off” their knowledge.
They are encouraged to seek
clarification on items they did not
3. Speaker #1 starts with the first
agenda item and then others chime
Four Plus One/College Study Group
4. When they are done talking about
the first agenda item, Speaker #2
begins to discuss the second agenda
item. Others then add their own
5. The observer can tally
6. After a short period of time the
observer becomes one of the
speakers and Speaker #4 becomes
4 + 1 College Study Group
Discuss the issue of homework.
•Should homework be considered “practice?”
•What percent should homework count in the
•Do we give homework that helps move the
student toward the learning goals? What
percent of a student’s grade should home
2 x 2 Rotating Discussion
1.Each pair gets 2 minutes to present its position. (Each
person in the pair should speak for a minute.
2.While one pair is presenting, the other pair should be
listening/jotting down what they hear, coming up with
questions based on what they hear.
3.After both pairs have had a chance to present their
positions, there will be 2 minutes for questions/debate in
which both sides can talk at the same time.
4.Each debate will take a total of 6 minutes and then the
positive pairs will rotate to a new pair for the next
5.Some pairs will be asked to share their key points with
the entire group.
• Debate current events, controversial issues or
• Set up a structure whereby students work in pairs
in groups of four.
• Each pair is assigned a different position on the
controversial issue (often “for” and “against”), and
given a set of primary and secondary sources in
order to study their position.
• Pairs then reverse perspectives and explain opposing
• Teacher debriefs with whole class.
I. 3 points related to Gun Control
a. Point 1 – 2nd Amendment
i. The Second Amendment
Guarantees the Right to Bear Arms
ii. Gun Activists Misconstrue the
a. Point 2 – Gun Control Laws
i. Gun Control Laws Reduce Violence
ii. Gun Control Does Not Prevent
b. Point 3 – Role of Gun Manufactures
i. Gun Manufacturers Should be Held
Financially Responsible for Gun Related
ii. Gun Manufacturers are Not
Responsible for Gun Related Deaths
• 1. Class is divided into 6
• 2. Each group is responsible
to master the material found in
their article for a presentation
to the class.
3. After both points are
presented to the class, the
floor is open to debate the
material presented during the
Julie Klinner will
Inquiry Circles at
the Middle School.
• Effective seminars occur when
participants study the text closely in
advance, listen actively, share their ideas
and questions in response to the ideas
and questions of others, and search for
evidence in the text to support their
• An effective Socratic Seminar creates
dialogue as opposed to debate. Dialogue
creates "better conversation."
• Divide your class into two circles, an
inner circle and an outer circle.
• The inner circle explores the meaning
of the text while the outer circle
observes the discussion.
• The inner circle is given 10 – 12
minutes to examine and discuss the
• The outer circle cannot interact or
speak during the discussion. They are
like the detective behind the two-way
mirror. But rather than focusing on
the content of what is being said, they
are interpreting, evaluating and
assessing the discussion process.
• Matt Copeland
Preparing for the Discussion
Teach students a systematic
method for annotating the
text. Annotations (reading
thoughts) can include
connections and most
importantly questions. (Circle
unfamiliar vocabulary words,
underline key phrases, and
write questions in the margins.)
• After 10 – 12 minutes, we have a
reversal of roles. The outer circle
spends 5-10 minutes providing
feedback on the discussion process
while the inner circle listens attentively.
• Then the two circles switch. The
maintaining of the discussionfeedback-discussion-feedback pattern
the inner circle
sit on the floor
with the outer
them in desks.
How do we use discussions to help us evaluate student learning?
1. Should group discussions be given a summative evaluation grade of x amount of points or
should it be considered a formative assignment and either not graded or given a check mark
(minimal pt. value)?
What type of rubric could be used to help the teacher evaluate and grade
When grading how do you differentiate between quantity of participation and
quality of participation?
If you use a format like 1 x 1 or small groups of 4, how do you get around to
really assessing whether they have learned the lesson objectives?
Are you just grading participation or are you assessing discussion skills or are
you assessing what the student knows about the subject matter? Does your scoring
quide, observation guide or rubric reflect this?
2. How can you be fair with your grading assessment of a discussion when some students
are naturally aggressive in discussion while others are shy and have trouble speaking up?
How can you modify the discussion format so that students who have trouble
speaking out will have a fair opportunity?
Given a good text, an arresting issue,
students like to argue, in small groups
or as a class. We’re daft if we don’t see
that argument teaches them to think
and is about the best inducement we
have for getting them to read
purposefully and write with passion and
energy” Mike Schmoker, Results Now.