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"The purposes of a discussion are to build collective knowledge and capability in relation to specific instructional goals and to allow students to practice listening, speaking, and interpreting, agreeing and disagreeing. The teacher and a wide range of students contribute orally, listen actively, and respond to and learn from others’ contributions."

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Leading Group Discussion


(December 2023)

The following video shows an example of a group discussion in the Advance Placement Spanish Language class. For the theme of aging, I designed three lessons where the students were exposed to the idea of how getting old is often associated with loneliness, illness, and isolation. After they explored how the elderly are treated differently in Hispanic countries compared to the United States, I invited them to reflect if the initial idea is something normal to be expected or if it needs to be changed. In the second lesson, I introduced the topic of immortality as an option for becoming old. I asked the students to reflect individually on the possibility of being immortal or living a normal lifespan by thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of immortality. We then had a group discussion to share their opinions. This lesson was in preparation for the third and final class, which consisted of the reading of the story “Nosotros, no” (Not us) by author Jose B. Adolph, about a futuristic world where only people younger than 25 years old become immortal. 


At the beginning of my class, I engaged the students by sharing some pictures of my father's ancestry. I spoke about my great-grandfather and grandfather and introduced the idea of how wonderful it would be to have them still around. This served as an introduction to the concept of immortality, which I then asked my students to consider by posing the question: "What if we could all become immortal?" I then asked them to write the advantages and disadvantages of all becoming immortal in the world. The video shows from the start to minute 1 how I facilitated the reflection by giving prompts and ideas about the topic.

Next, I used the “Speed Dating” discussion format to do a first round of exchange of opinions by having the students in two lines facing each other and using a buzzer to mark the start and the end of the discussion of one advantage or disadvantage. The students used the"Ventajas y Desventajas" handout to do the discussion.

We continued our discussion as a whole group and created a table to list the advantages and disadvantages of the concept. I led the discussion while some students shared their opinions on the matter. This helped them gain a better understanding of the concept, and their opinions were recorded. In the end, the group came to a consensus that being immortal is not such a good idea.

Strengths of this Discussion: 

  • The topic chosen was appropriate for a classroom discussion.  The topic of immortality was suitable and interesting enough for the students to develop their communication skills by engaging in conversations to share their opinions about the advantages and disadvantages of immortality, providing and obtaining information to complete their thinking, and expressing feelings and emotions about not getting old, all of which were learning objectives of the lesson following the ACTFL standards listed on the lesson plan. For this discussion, the students were encouraged to use Spanish to produce their written sentences and later to express their opinions about the topic during the “Speed Dating”  and Group discussion. Still, exceptions were made if they didn’t have the vocabulary words to express their ideas in Spanish.

  • The discussion launching question: "What if we could all become immortal?" was engaging to students and captured a majority of the students' interest. I also continued to give them prompts to think about, like “Cuales son las ventajas y desventajas?, What would you do?, Write as many ideas as you have. For your community, think about your school… stores… even the parking lot.”  (minute 00:00-1:00) Those questions and statements facilitated the thinking process of the students to produce their writing opinions and feelings to exchange later during the discussions. The following pictures are examples of their writing work. The fact that I was available for them to ask me grammar and vocabulary questions helped to make the activity more productive for everybody.

  • Numerous attempts to follow unplanned lines of student reasoning or engage students’ comments. I used follow-up questions to facilitate and or engage students’ opinions on advantages and disadvantages to have an effective flow of the discussion since all the comments were connected to the theme of immortality. In the video in the minute 7:51, a student says that immortality would cause people not to appreciate life, and I asked back why that would be? She said it because people would take it for granted, so I replied by asking her what consequence that situation would have. And she said people would become rebellious, and I agreed with her adding that people would become like daredevils. She said “yes,” all because we would not appreciate life, and another student replied that there would be no motivation because of immortality. I asked her back what would be the consequence of that and she responded that she would be bored. Those are some examples of how I made attempts to follow up on unplanned lines of students’ thinking.

  • A usable record that accurately represented the discussion and the overall objective was created. I used it to expand the students' opinions with the ones from their classmates and for future reflection. The same format the students used to produce their advantages and disadvantages was projected on the board. After asking for volunteers to share their opinions, I recorded their ideas for them to add to their handouts for their reflection. The following is a picture of the record.

  • I utilized the "Speed Dating" discussion structure, and the students were encouraged to participate and share their thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of immortality. The entire class actively engaged in this activity, as can be seen from minute 1:01 of the video. However, when I facilitated the group discussion, the conversation was dominated by comments primarily going from the students to me as the teacher. Moving forward, I will prioritize student engagement and aim to involve more students in the discussion by utilizing a more interactive discussion structure, like concentric circles.

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