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Conversational Moves

Conversational Moves (pdf)

Conversational Moves (doc)

Sample Dialogue I Just Wanna Be Average (pdf)

Sample Dialogue I Just Wanna Be Average (doc)

This is a tally sheet as part of a larger unit on Discourse. In a nutshell, students are taught explicit skills for small group discussions, from asking questions to encourage others to elaborate to paraphrasing another’s comment before building on it, from creating space for someone who has not yet spoken to disagreeing with someone in a respectful and constructive way. Students look at (and perform) sample dialogues and learn to identify the different “conversational moves.” After a period of low-stakes practice, they move towards a serious discussion of a class text (each group has a different topic related to the same text). For the discussion, using a fishbowl technique, the group sits in a circle in the center of the room, and the rest of the class sits in a large circle around them. While the inner group discusses the topic (glancing at, but not reading from, notes and a copy of the text), the outer circle uses the above tally sheet to keep track of any moves they may be making. The instructor periodically presses the pause button on the discussion to check in with the outer circle on what they have noticed (and not noticed yet), as well as guiding them to record model lines of discourse at the bottom of the tally sheet. The instructor, meanwhile, is grading the small group members on preparation and engagement. At the end, the outer circle provides feedback on strengths and needs of the discussion and asks follow-up questions of the small group. We conclude with wild applause.

-A. Evan Nichols

*Deep gratitude to the many good folks behind the Integrated Reading and Writing Handbook at DVC, Skyline Community College and San Francisco State! This is adapted from and inspired by them!