World Café

Knowledge Café, Conversation Café

World Café is a collaboration strategy that requires students to participate in multiple small group discussions. In this strategy, groups of students sit at “café tables” around the classroom and discuss a prompt or question provided by the teacher. After an allotted time period, all students except a designated “table host,” rotate to another table. After new groups are formed, the “table host” shares key ideas from the previous group’s discussion and students continue their conversation about the topic. As students sit with new classmates in each round, they consider different perspectives, weave new ideas together, and deepen their understanding of the topic. After several rounds, the class gathers for a “group harvest” to share common themes and understandings developed from the discussions. World Café provides an engaging, non-threatening environment for students to delve into new topics and aides in building a community of shared knowledge. Essential Components of World Café
--Special setting: Classroom setup with tables and props to resemble a real world café
--Warm welcome/introduction: Teacher sets the context and discusses expectations (i.e., café etiquette)
--Small group rounds: students discuss questions in several timed rounds
-- Group harvest: optional culminating conversation in a whole group setting

Ready-to-Use Resources

Classroom Management Tool

World Café Etiquette Guidelines (K-5)

Instructions for how to select and establish World Café etiquette guidelines with students. Includes suggested discussion expectations appropriate for elementary students.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · Behavior & SEL · 1 pages

Classroom Management Tool

World Café Etiquette Guidelines (6-12)

Instructions for how to select and establish World Café etiquette guidelines with students. Includes suggested discussion expectations appropriate for upper-grade students.

Grade 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · Behavior & SEL · 1 pages

Implementation Tips

Question Selection
Select open-ended questions that allow for multiple perspectives. The question is the heart of the conversation, therefore it must be clear, thought provoking, and meaningful to students. It is also helpful to provide time for students to prepare their responses to a question beforehand (e.g., homework assignment).

Sample questions: If you could give (character) some advice, what would you tell him/her? Which ancient civilization has had the most impact on our world today?
Café Etiquette/Expectations
Pre-teach and model proper etiquette for World Café discussions. Practice table rotations with students and use cues to indicate transitions (e.g., ring bell and call “order up” as a one-minute warning before a table rotation, and then state “check please” to initiate movement to new tables). Provide groups with reminders of cafe etiquette/expectations (e.g., handout with expectations, task cards, etc.) to refer to during their discussions.
Graphic Recording
Provide colorful pens/markers and plenty of blank paper that students can use to write down key words, phrases, images and symbols that emerge from conversations. Graphic organizers (e.g., Venn diagram, web, etc.) can also be provided to help groups collect ideas. These graphic recordings encourage students to notice patterns and makes the collective discoveries of the group more visible.
Creating the Café Environment
Use simple decorations such as tablecloths and vases of flowers to create a welcoming environment for World Café discussions. Create groups of 4-6 students per table or huddle chairs together around a centerpiece and recording tools (e.g., blank paper and writing utensils) in the middle.Providing light refreshments for students can also make the café environment feel exciting and more realistic.
Student Self-Reflection
Have students complete a rubric, checklist, or reflection sheet following a World Cafe session that allows them to reflect on their behavior and attentiveness during the discussions. This can be used to determine how to best support students during World Cafe sessions and helps students build self-awareness and self-management skills.


Literature Discussions
After finishing a chapter of a shared class novel, a teacher asks students to think about what social issues are affecting the main character and write their ideas on sticky notes for homework. The next day, the students place their sticky notes on a board in the classroom and all students read the posted ideas. Students then participate in World Café focused on this topic incorporating their own ideas and those they read posted by others. Providing the prompt beforehand and allowing students to consider the others ideas before discussions, can reduce barriers to participation and promote greater engagement.
Conflict Resolution
To support students in building conflict resolution skills and promote social awareness, a teacher provides a “Mediator Mailbox” for students to anonymously report conflicts or challenges they are facing. During a class meeting, the teacher or a student selects an issue from the mailbox and students discuss possible solutions in World Café small groups. During the group rounds, the teacher prompts students with questions to deepen the conversations (e.g., Have you experienced a situation like this? Why is it important to talk and not keep your feelings to yourself? Why is it best for people to be able to talk and listen to each other?) and ensure students are following World Café etiquette guidelines. After the discussion rounds, the students use role playing to demonstrate the conflict resolution strategies discussed.
Collaborative Problem Solving
Each World Café small group is given a different word problem to solve. Each group discusses ways to solve their problem and prepares a poster illustrating their approach and solution. As they rotate to new groups, the table host presents the strategy and solution prepared by the previous group. The new group then discusses the problem-solving method, evaluates the solution, and considers other ways to solve the problem. During the group harvest, students teach and convince each other about their strategies (e.g., We chose this strategy and model because... We think our solutions are effective because…).
Community Building
At the beginning of the school year, a teacher asks students to discuss what characteristics they value most in a friend in World Café groups. As part of each group’s discussions, students either draw or cut out images from a magazines depicting two or three of the characteristics agreed on by the group. After conversation rounds, students post the images from their discussions on a large poster board titled “Characteristics of a Good Friend.” As the class reviews the images displayed, the teacher asks, “What might we agree on together as a group to ensure that we are good friends to each other?” and records ideas on the poster. This poster is displayed in the classroom and referenced throughout the year to support positive student interactions.

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