Learning about Issues through Discussion in the Primary Social Studies Classroom: A Shared Inquiry Approach, pp. 10 of 16


The opening can determine the success of a discussion. It would include reviewing the norms and guidelines for discussion and student participation, making the targeted skills and dispositions explicit, activating student thinking before the discussion by using the warm-up activities mentioned in the preparation stage, and presenting the focus discussion question to the class.


To ensure that the discussion is on track and students listen and participate in shared inquiry and understanding, teachers need to focus on three things to sustain the discussion: students listening to understand, scaffolding to overcome challenges associated with sustaining discussion and monitoring to ensure equitable participation.

In listening to understand, two types of pauses should be introduced. They are Think Time 1 (TT1) and Think Time 2 (TT2). TT1 is the pause after a question is asked and TT2 is the pause after a speaker stops speaking but before another intervenes. Honouring these think times help students hone their listening skills of thinking about the speaker’s comments and comparing them to their own thinking, asking questions to better understand the speaker’s views, paraphrasing of the speaker’s words correctly, and looking at the speaker and giving non-verbal cues that one is listening. Teacher modelling of being at ease with silence and the listening skills, and their communication of the value of silence to their class will contribute towards student shared understanding.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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