Sandi Novak, Ed.S.

Preventing “Off Roading” Discussions
Small Groups, Big Discussions Part 5


Sandi Novak

This is the fifth post in a series on student-led, small-group discussions. The series explores the challenges to effective small-group discussions and how to address them.

Have you ever listened to a small group discussion and didn’t recognize the topic? When students first engage in discussions on their own, they sometimes veer off topic and don’t know how to bring the conversation back. This is a common challenge that can be addressed by ensuring discussion worthy topics are considered, setting appropriate time limits, and offering supports that will help when discussions get side-tracked.

Discussion Worthy Topics

Students need important and enough content to talk about during their discussions. They need to know how to begin a discussion with a talk-worthy question or prompt. At first, the teacher can generate a question to get the discussion started. Shortly after the students have had some practice with talking together on their own in small groups of 4-6 members, they should generate their own thought provoking question or idea to get the discussion started. 

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My core mission is to prepare and support school leaders and teachers to enhance outcomes for all students. Well-trained leaders improve the achievement of all students. Effective leaders build a school team with a sense of urgency, drive and commitment. I am dedicated to the ongoing development of such leaders.

I aim to help educators master literacy enhancements within their school systems. Drawing on my experience developing proven programs, I work with school systems large and small, urban and rural. I understand the daily demands of school leadership and the unique role that school leaders play.

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Setting the Stage for Student-Led Discussions
Small Groups, Big Discussions Part 6


Sandi Novak

This is the sixth post in a series on student-led, small-group discussions. The series explores the challenges to effective small-group discussions and how to address them.

As you prepare for a year filled with many opportunities for students to talk, you may reflect on your past experiences and wonder how you might enhance your classroom environment to set students up for successful experiences with student-led discussions. Four things come to mind when I think about the rituals and routines that need to be present for students to engage in meaningful talk.

The classroom climate must value student voice.
We need to understand what quality discussions look and sound like.
We need to explicitly teach students group membership behaviors and communication strategies while expanding their knowledge of important content.
To engage in meaningful dialogue, students need to read, view and listen to deepen their knowledge of important content.