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Class discussions are an important part of any classroom experience. This lesson will provide some ideas for creating a rubric to hold students accountable for their participation in discussions.

What is a Class Discussion?

When teaching, it is important to occasionally engage your students in a class discussion. These are conversations that involve every student in the class and require them to use their knowledge of a topic to participate thoughtfully. To lead a successful class discussion, it is important that students clearly understand your expectations. This is where a rubric comes in handy.

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In this lesson, we will be creating a rubric for a class discussion about the Dr. Seuss book ‘Green Eggs and Ham’. You can adjust the rubric to fit many age groups and subject areas.

The categories suggested in this lesson might need to be changed to better suit your expectations for a class discussion. We will be creating a 4-point rubric.

Speaking

Arguably the most important aspect of a class discussion is how clearly, loudly, and concisely students are able to talk to the whole class. Therefore, the first category of our rubric is going to be titled ‘Speaking’. This category will set expectations for how students should express themselves during a class discussion.The ‘speaking’ category will probably rarely change from topic to topic. To earn a 4, students must project their voices appropriately and appear confident in what they are saying.

They must also be concise or able to convey their ideas clearly in a small amount of time. Students who do not meet all of these expectations will earn a lower score.In our ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ discussion, students might speak about topics like: their memories of reading this book, the greater meanings of the book, using limited vocabulary to write a book, the book’s adaptations, the book’s rankings, etc.

If students aren’t sure what to talk about next, you can prompt them. How does the book demonstrate close-mindedness/open-mindedness, persistence, humility, etc?Grading this category can be subjective and can also change depending on the student. For example, if an incredibly shy student shows that she is trying her hardest to project and be clear, the requirements for a 4 might change. Conversely, if an incredibly well-spoken student is showing less effort than usual, she might score lower.

Listening

The partner to speaking, listening, is also an incredibly important aspect of class discussion. This category sets expectations for students about how they should act when it is not their turn to speak.For example, a student who is sitting quietly and showing signs of active listening, such as eye contact and non-verbal responses (shaking his head) would likely receive a 4 in this category. However, a student who is playing with something on his desk, staring off into space, or chatting with other students will receive a lower score, depending on the degree of his inattention.

Participation

‘Participation’ is a broad category that can cover a wide variety of expectations during discussions. For example, students who speak clearly, actively listen, and volunteer information or questions should receive a higher grade in participation than a student who simply said one thing and tuned out.For our discussion about ‘Green Eggs and Ham’, a student who volunteers even after she already spoke once would receive a higher grade than a student who doesn’t speak at all.

Also, students who present original thoughts and ideas during the discussion (‘I think the book demonstrates the positive impact cultural exchange can have on both parties’) or (‘I think that kids who learn about trying new things at a young age will grow up to be more accepting of human differences’) will earn a higher grade in this category.

Preparation

In order to successfully engage in a class discussion, students need to be prepared and have background knowledge on what you are all discussing. This category sets expectations for how well students should prepare for the discussion.In our discussion, at the very least, students need to have read ‘Green Eggs and Ham’. To earn a 4 in this category, however, students will need to have sought out other information about the book, as well.

Perhaps they’ve read critical reviews of the book. They will also have to have notes and questions pre-written for the discussion. Maybe they are wondering why ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ was so popular compared to all the other books Dr. Seuss wrote. Just reading the book with some notes will earn students a 3, and even less preparation will earn an even lower grade.

Behavior

The final category on our rubric governs students’ overall behavior during the discussion. Some of these behaviors are also covered under speaking and listening. However, this category is an overall score based on how students acted while speaking, listening, and at the beginning and end of the activity.For our rubric, to earn a 4, students will need to be respectful when addressing other students, answering questions, listening, and speaking to the class. Students who are sarcastic, rude, or uninterested will receive gradually lower scores depending on the severity of their poor behavior.

This is what our rubric looks like for a class discussion

Lesson Summary

Class discussions are important activities in which students can share ideas and concerns about a topic. Having a class discussion rubric can help students understand what the expectations are for their behavior and participation during the activity. A good rubric will set expectations for how students should speak, listen, participate, prepare, and behave during a discussion.The rubric created for this lesson used a discussion about ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ as an example, but can be adjusted and modified to suit many different age groups and subject areas.

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