Student-Led Discussions

Before Class

1)    Read the assignment due for class carefully, and bring the text(s) to class.

2)    Formulate and write down four or five discussion questions based upon the assigned readings.

3)    On the assumption that you will lead the day’s discussion, write a brief opening statement about the reading of at least 200 words. Your statement should set the stage for, and end by raising, one or more of your discussion questions. Your opening statement can be about anything you want. Some suggestions include: your opinion of and reaction to the text(s), the assignment’s relation to other texts we have read in class, the text’s representation of New York or its speaker. I will randomly collect opening statements throughout the semester.


During Class

1)    Listen to discussion leader’s open statement. Pay particular attention the discussion question(s) or issue(s) he or she raises.

2)    Discuss the issue(s) and question(s) raised by the discussion leader, attempting—preferably in this order—to analyze, criticize, and connect.

  1. Analyze the readings in order to clarify and gain a deeper understanding of difficult concepts, examples, as well as the author’s position and arguments.
  2. Criticize or respond to the readings, articulating and defending personal opinions about the adequacy of the author’s presentation and arguments.
  3. Connect the issues you have analyzed and criticized to material of previous assignments in order to discern broader themes, concepts, and comparable or contrasting opinions.

3)    As you participate, make good use of the text, at times calling attention to specific passages relevant to the issue at hand. When referencing a passage, allow time for others in the class to locate it and then read it aloud.

4)    Ignore the professor during their period of enforced silence.

5)    Continue the student-led discussion with the same goals after the professor has joined in.

6)    Take notes about points and examples that deepen your understanding; opinions that differ from your own; and arguments that you find helpful, convincing, or worth trying to refute. These notes may be useful when you want to contribute to discussion, when you formulate study questions for subsequent classes, or when you write papers. Do not, however, allow note-taking to cause you to lose the thread of the discussion.

For more information and tips concerning how to lead discussion, see this handout.

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