Archived InformationState of the Art: Reading - November 1993
(Cintorino 1993, p. 32)
Using discussion to connect literature and other texts with a variety of experiences and the prior knowledge of the reader maximizes students' learning, given that they critically discuss topics worth talking about. This interactive approach is based on the knowledge that, on the one hand, simply acquiring information like names and dates DOES NOT amount to significant learning. On the other hand, discussion among students, at any age, in which they hear different points of view and collaborate to solve problems, serves as a catalyst for the development of logical reasoning skills.
Traditionally, discussion in classrooms has not been common. As students advance through the grades, opportunities for discussion in the classroom appear to decrease. This situation has been so prevalent that in her study of secondary English classes, Alvermann (1986) called discussion the "forgotten language art." Nevertheless, when students are given opportunities to talk and listen, they can and do converse in productive ways to learn in all areas of the curriculum (Berrill 1988). Questions, rethinking, and refined understandings result when students discuss their understandings of themes or concepts that appear in text (Langer 1991; 1992).
Given the importance of discussion for effective learning,
effective teaching involves providing students with ample
opportunities to engage in daily discussions with one another.
Small group and peer-to-peer interaction are valuable in promoting
academic and social learning. Children who rely on each other for
help learn more than children who work alone (Cazden 1988).
Instruction can be organized in a variety of ways to facilitate
discussion. One way is to form a cooperative learning group of
students with varying abilities to read, discuss, or respond to a
piece of text. Another way is to pair students with a "buddy" to
interact and problem solve. The more students work in groups or
pairs, the more productive their discussions will become,
especially as their social skills become more refined.