Conversation Challenge is simply a way of framing small group discussions. Instead of only saying, “Discuss [insert prompt here] about [insert text here],” I add one additional structure: each group’s objective is to keep the discussion going for the full X minutes they’ll be given. (Typically, X = 4 or less for my ninth graders.) Also, every student must speak at least one time.
Video of a recent Conversation Challenge in my classroom
I think it’s useful to see what we’re talking about, so below, you’ll find a Conversation Challenge that took place in my classroom last week.
Here’s some additional context for you:
- This is my last 10 minutes with my students for the week, and I’m using the time to have students discuss the Gallagher-esque article of the week that they received on Tuesday. (Video of me introducing that article, along with more classroom example videos of article-based lessons, can be found in Part III of the Teaching with Articles Workshop.)
- It’s February, so at this point students are quite familiar with how Conversation Challenges work — yet, perhaps like your students, I find that many of my kids still struggle to carry conversations on topics they don’t choose.
- This is the first time we’ve had a small group discussion on the primary races. (Therefore, even though the structure of Conversation Challenge is familiar to them, the content of this particular challenge is new territory.)
Here’s the video: (click here if you don’t see it below)
Why use Conversation Challenge?
Here’s why I let this strategy into my very limited repertoire:
- It’s much quicker than pop-up debate, yet more formal than Think-Pair-Share. I needed a middle ground between those two things.
- It gives my students a different way to exercise speaking/listening autonomy than pop-up debate does.
- The time element gives my kids a clear understanding of what it looks like to “win.”
- Finally, the efficiency of Conversation Challenge means my kids will get lots of reps overcoming conversational weaknesses they may have.
Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments.