#1 - Kids get to to hear other kids process out loudThe power of kids learning from kids shouldn't be underestimated. I am stunned at how much students appreciate hearing other kids think aloud. Hearing someone take a stand, and then watching that person's viewpoint change because of new evidence presented by someone else - that's powerful stuff! And you see kids nodding their heads in agreement, so you know they're on board with this new information, too.
#2 - Collaboration builds confidence
Many students say they look at text differently after these discussions. There are nuances they notice now that they didn't before. They feel less intimidated about answering questions in class because, especially after a Seminar, they see how much they add on to each others' ideas and how safe that collaboration can feel.
#3 - You want them digging into the text, right?Observe the discussion as one student stops, eyes racing up and down the paper to find the exact text evidence wanted. Suddenly, everyone is paying closer attention to text, and even marking it as they listen to others' points of view.
#4 - They're the teachers, not you
I always debrief these seminars with my students, and my favorite quote from last year was, "Don't take offense to this. But you're old and you're the teacher. I expect you to say things like this. But when I hear it from a classmate, I pay more attention." Bingo!
This year I'm going to try something new (for me.) We'll be using a fishbowl - half the class in an inner circle participating, and the other half in an outer circle, listening to the group, but observing just one partner. Halfway through, we'll switch. At the end, each student will evaluate him/herself and each partner will evaluate the person being observed.
Here's a Self/Partner check in Google Docs that you can download and use if you'd like: