Strategy

Guided Peer Discussions

Accountable Talk

UDL 5.3

Guided Peer Discussions are discussions between students where the teacher provides scaffolding and specific tools to facilitate the discussion. Guided Peer Discussions allow teachers to use strategies in a natural context to support student growth in communication, expression, and language discourse. Prior to Guided Peer Discussions, the teacher models specific peer discussion techniques (e.g. Think-Pair-Share, using Talking Chips) and pre-teaches any necessary skills or vocabulary. The teacher also provides supports such as communication sentence starters (e.g. I think that ___. I agree/disagree with ___. Although the author states ____, I believe___.), visual aids (e.g., images, writing discussion frames on the whiteboard) and graphic organizers. During the discussion the teacher can support engagement and communication by prompting students to clarify, elaborate, respond to comments, build on each others ideas, ask questions, and participate equitably.

Implementation Tips

Frequent Practice
Provide frequent opportunities for students to practice communication skills learned during Guided Peer Discussions. Use peer discussions during pre-teaching activities, to respond to literature and information, and as a summative activity. Use a variety of discussion structures (e.g. partner talk, small group discussions, whole group discussions) to provide varied opportunities for learners to engage in group discussions.
Partner Support
Give students opportunities to discuss in small groups or with partners prior to whole group discussions to support students who need language support (e.g. students with communication disorders or students learning English). Provide further scaffolding by giving students visuals, word banks, and communication boards.
Discussion Structures and Techniques
Review the structures, rules, and communication norms for peer discussions with students periodically. Use the review as a pre-discussion activity and highlight skills that are routinely missing from the group’s discussions. It is also beneficial to provide time for group reflection and ask students to share their opinions about the quality of their group discussion(s).

Examples

Think-Pair-Share
At the beginning of the school year, a teacher uses Think-Pair-Share discussions to help build class community. The teacher writes, “What helps you learn and feel confident at school?” on the board and ask students to write their response in their journal. After a few minutes, the teacher asks students to find a partner and discuss their answers. Each pair is then invited to share some of the ideas they discussed with the entire class.
Talking Chips
To promote balanced discussions, a teacher provides five Talking Chips to each student before they break into groups to discuss a book they are reading in class. Each time a student makes a comment about the book or asks a question, the student places a Talking Chip in the center of the table. Once a student runs out of chips, he/she must wait until everyone’s chips have been used before sharing another idea.
Discussion Sentence Frames
As a pre-teaching activity prior to a whole group discussion about the British Stamp Act and a comparison of the loyalist and patriot perspective, the teacher provides students with potential sentence frames and models using them. The sentence frames include how to express an opinion (e.g. "I think/believe that..."), how to disagree (e.g. "I disagree with you because…", "I see it in another way such as…"), and how to paraphrase (e.g. "In other words, you think that..."). The students then engage in the academic discussion utilizing these language strategies.

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