Structured Peer Conversations

Structured Peer Conversations are times in the classroom where a specific protocol is followed to allow structured conversations to occur where every student has a turn to share his or her ideas as well as practice active listening skills. Teaching students to have structured conversations with their peers in the classroom is essential to developing the necessary skills for future collaborative work. One example of structured peer conversations is the Socratic Seminar or Paideia Seminar.

Ideas to Consider When Incorporating Structured Peer Conversations:

  • Make sure students are aware of and understand the objective and purpose of this structured conversation.
  • Decide the best set up for structured peer conversations (ie: partners, small group, whole class)
  • Model effective questioning techniques
    • So you’re saying that…
    • Let me see if I understand you correctly…
    • I agree with you because…
    • I see where you’re coming from but I do not agree that…
  • Model ways students can revise their thinking based on new learning.
    • After listening to you, I now see it differently…
    • After hearing what you have to say, I now think…
  • Determine time limits or number of times a student must participate
  • Conduct verbal check-ups on the groups to ensure guidelines are being met.

Watch It In Action

The second video is a two part video that demonstrates how the teacher sets up the "rules" for the class' Socratic Seminar, and then how she facilitates the seminar during class.

Tech Tool Tie-In

Consider using Today's Meet during your Socratic Seminar.  For larger classes, teachers can create inner and outer circles. Students in the inner circle can verbally participate in the conversation, while students in the outer circle can participate virtually through the use of a backchannel. Using Today's Meet is also a great source for students who lack confidence in sharing his/her ideas aloud to the class.

Click on the image below to access some "Question Stems" for Structured Peer Conversations.

Bonus Resource