Discussion functions | A turn-taking activity

Discussion functions

A couple of days ago, I wrote about a course I taught last week where I needed to encourage my Ss to speak up. The other activity I used to spur my Ss to participate more actively in discussions was one I borrowed from Leadership Games by Stephen S. Kaagan. I must confess that I didn’t really focus on turn-taking as a skill as much as I did on giving Ss doable ideas for making their voices heard but it could be used quite effectively to practice language for turn-taking. I thought this was a very successful activity.

Materials 

Discussion function cards for each person, you’ll need 1 NT, 1 S, 1 I, 2 Qs and 4 Bs as in the image.

Procedure 

  • Divide your class into groups of 5 or 6 but no more than that or it will get unwieldy.
  • Write up a key for the cards on the WB or on a slide:
    • B: Build on an idea shared by the previous speaker.
    • NT: Introduce a different topic into the discussion.
    • Q: Ask a question of a speaker or the group.
    • I: Interrupt the discussion.
    • S: Synthesize or summarize the points made by other speakers.
  • Announce the topic for discussion. I used this one: “How do we as a service line or an organization stay innovative in an extremely competitive market?” Set the timer as appropriate and allow the Ss to discuss the topic.
  • Each time Ss speak, they must use one of the cards, slapping it on the table as they take their turn.
  • Ss must try to use up all their cards by the end of the discussion. They should be careful to space out their contributions so they don’t end up exhausting their cards too early. This should encourage them to listen to their colleagues and then comment appropriately instead of just hogging the limelight.
  • Debrief the activity by asking Ss to reflect on how they participated in the discussion and what they would do differently if they were to run the activity again. Ask them which cards they found easy to use and which cards more challenging. Did any of the cards compel them to participate in a way they wouldn’t normally do in a meeting?

Adapted from Discussion Functions. Kaagan, S.S., Leadership Games: Experiential Learning for Organizational Development. Sage Publications, 1999, pp.77-79

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5 thoughts on “Discussion functions | A turn-taking activity

  1. You’re brilliant. How do you keep yourself (or rather, find the time) so up to date in the ELT world? I am always reading your ideas and using them in my class. Time to get my DELTA done soon, Adi.

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    1. Thanks Ratna! That’s so sweet of you. My motto is ‘keep learnin or keep stagnatin’ so I try to find the time but I must confess it’s not always easy. I’m glad you found these ideas useful. And you must get your Delta application going soon!

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  2. Hello Adi,

    I held an ‘English for meetings’ workshop last week and was inspired by your idea of using cards to prompt participation. I found that the cards really encouraged learners to do things they wouldn’t normally dare to do, like interrupting and disagreeing. You can read about the lesson here: https://efltower.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/business-meetings/

    Thank you for sharing this great technique: I’ll definitely use it again in the future.

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