Be it a small group or a large group involved in a discussion, speaking up and finding a way to contribute to the discussion can be hard for children. All the more so, as group discussion based formats in small groups do not exist in schools on a regular basis. But it is said that that is going to change. The National Education Policy 2020 strives to bring about inquiry, discussion, critical thinking and analysis based learning. Group projects exist to enable children to participate in group discussions, express their points of view and decide together what they could accomplish together. Collective decision making requires fair amount of active listening, empathy towards others and the confidence to make sure that one's contribution is also heard. It isn't however easy always to simply jump into a group discussion. A little something from the facilitator helps...
Breaking The Ice In A Group Discussion- Enabling Talk
Identifying areas of common interest and raising questions in those areas, tend to be excellent conversation starters. Simple questions such as "Did anything interesting happen today for anyone?" or "What is everyone reading today?" or "Does anyone here like Harry Potter?" sets the ball rolling. All that it needs is atleast one uninhibited talker/speaker who kickstarts the discussion by sharing something. Gradually, the others react after actively listening, sometimes sharing something similar or making a connection with something that they have heard, read or seen or raise a logical question which could potentially become a debate.
That's exactly what happened in one of the sessions at the Young Readers' Club. There was a general banter between the section of the group that adores Harry Potter and the section of the group that loves Lord of The Rings. In the course of their heated discussion, it was discovered that the Harry Potter fans hadn't read the latter series. The question of how unfair the debate was raised. "They haven't read the Lord of the Rings. Let them read it and then tell us if Harry Potter is better," was the closing argument in the heated debate that marked the commencement of one our sessions one beautiful day at the Young Readers' Club.
The way in which these children voiced their opinions and raised relevant questions to find suitable arguments to strengthen their point of view was remarkable to watch. It made me ponder as a facilitator, that children when given the freedom to think, can bring a lot to the table. What's more, a sense of familiarity grew amidst them.
Tendency to talk together- Encouraging children to listen
When the environment feels safe and comfortable to express oneself, there is a tendency to speak up all at once. Insisting that every voice needs to be heard and collectively it is an amalgamation of different voices, conveying nothing in the end, helps the children to pause and think. Given time they even figure innovative ways by which every individual can be heard. There will be instances in which someone interrupts someone else as they are so engrossed in their thoughts and the need to express it right away. The key is to sensitise the ones who interrupt to pause and take note that someone is already speaking and to note down their thoughts lest they forget. Constant reminders in these lines enable children to note down their thoughts and actively listen to the person who is talking at the given moment. This becomes second nature to pay attention to what someone is saying, taking time to react and maintain a notebook/scratchpad to quickly record thoughts.
Building a stronger team- giving everyone a chance to talk and to be heard.
There have been instances at the Young Writers' Club when a speaker takes a long time to express their views leaving little room and time for the team mates to contribute. When given a chance to reflect upon their conversations in the classroom, they began to realise that they tend to go round about while expressing themselves instead of keeping it crisp. Others realised that they on the other hand give very little detail making it impossible for someone to fully comprehend their point of view. These moments of reflection have enabled them to make the effort to change on their own in every group discussion/debate that we have had.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-12 age group, the Young Writers' Club program for the 13-15 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.
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