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Friday, May 8, 2015

May Days! Engaging Students to the Bitter End!

May Days! May Days! 
The most challenging part of the year has begun. Time to get creative!  I attended a webinar the other day by @aaronquigley where he mentioned Fishbowl Debates as a teaching strategy to get students engaged in problem based learning.  Fishbowl Debates turn out to be a great way to get kids thinking about different perspectives, an important part of any higher level thinking!

Fishbowl Debate Basics
So what is a Fishbowl Debate?  You arrange your seating in a circle with a small circle of 4-5 chairs in the center.  Assign different points of view to groups of students on issues or questions from history, the headlines, politics, novels, etc.  Each group discusses the question from their assigned perspective in the center of a circle.  After each group has shared, students can discuss the issues with peers from other groups.  Aaron’s adaptation “the deep dive” – had representatives from each point of view in the center and students on the outside researching support material and tagging in when they had something to say.  Check out some other great variations of this teaching strategy from the site Facing History and Ourselves.

Fishbowl Debate Resources
So how do you pick a topic for your debate?  Why not look to the headlines? is a great source of high interest articles offered in different reading Lexiles to differentiate for your students.  They also have great Pro/Con articles like “Are Federal Regulations needed for E cigarettes?” that provide an easy start to any debate. is also a great site that provides different perspectives on many hot topics.

Want to increase engagement and participation?  Hold an electronic Fishbowl debate.  Did you know the free SCAN tool at TregoED provides scenarios with questions and different perspectives that students can discuss in a private online discussion platform?  Included are links to articles or you can add your own.  Check out the latest lessons:  “Vaccines:  Should all School Children be Required to get Them?”  or “Should E Cigarettes be Regulated like Tobacco?”  (Both lessons use articles from that offers them in different reading levels.)  The SCAN tool has built in critical thinking questions to keep the conversation going.
Either way, high tech or low tech, teaching strategies that link to relevant and interesting topics, provide different points of view and encourage students to consider different points of view are a great way to get kids engaged and thinking any time of year!  
More ideas for the end of the year:

What activities have you found to keep them engaged and learning?  Please share!