Graded Student Discussions and Secret Snowflake

Posted: December 10, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about graded class discussions and written multiple times about how I have been working this concept during the semester. My most recent twist was to have two smaller conversations to provide a space for the quieter students, which was a success. However, the ultimate goal is to have all the students participate in a single discussion. (The class is very small so there is time for all to participate.)

Since we are doing a little secret snowflake gift exchange at the moment, I thought about incorporating that into our discussion. In the past I gave each student an individual goal/job which was about what the individual student should do for him or herself to be successful. This time I gave students jobs that were for their classmates’ success. The idea was that as students did their jobs, they were giving gift to their classmates. Each student received a note with one of the following written on it:

  • Please invite _________ to participate in the discussion.
  • Please encourage __________ to give specific examples.
  • Please challenge ___________. (I gave this only to 1 student and chose the challenger very carefully.)
  • Please encourage ____________ to connect his or her ideas to those of other students.

Once again, the students stepped up. They asked others to participate. With a few absences, I didn’t hear anyone ask for examples, but I did hear students asking for their classmates to engage. These are things I usually do, but it’s so much better if the students ask take this responsibility. Also, the quiet people had a task to do to get them started talking. Great.

Of course, for some it was obvious who their “secret snowflake” was right away. However, I don’t think that the student who was “challenged” realized what was happening. It came off as very natural and created some actual back and forth where there was not agreement. This does happen at other times, but with different folks, and it is sometimes less graceful. And, because of who I assigned to be the challenger, the challenged could hear it, and the rest of the group took the lead from challenger and engaged in more of a debate. I just took notes and giggled to myself.



  1. olivemom says:

    I am obsessed with this discussion series!

    • mseiteljorg says:

      Thanks for keeping reading about it. I have to say it has been one of the best ongoing experiments I have fallen into. My current course is a semester long, so I’ll have to introduce the whole thing to a new group in a few weeks. Plus in my next course I plan to have students reading different books at times. This will let me think of more ways to tweak the format.

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