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November 22, 2009 Give One - Get One: Engaging Difficult to Reach Students By Justin Lim

    One of the most difficult aspects of teaching for veterans and newcomers alike is engaging difficult to reach students in class discussions. Some of us have even accepted that discussion will only be driven by the teacher and a few precocious students. If this sounds familiar, then read on, because it doesn't have to be that way!

    Give One - Get One is a strategy that can get every student to participate every time. It allows students to engage in structured academic discussions with peers – practicing in an environment that is safe and stimulating – before sharing with the whole class.

    Here's how to do it:


    1. Have some of the following sentence starters posted in your room:

    Expressing an Opinion:

    • In my opinion...
    • I believe...
    • It seems to me that...
    • Based on my experience...

    Comparing Ideas:

    • My idea is similar in that...
    • I agree that...
    • My idea builds on ________'s idea in that...


    • Although ________ has a valid point, I disagree. I believe that...

    Seeking Clarification:

    • So what you are saying is...?
    • In other words, you think that...?
    • If I understand you correctly, you are saying that...?


    • _____ pointed out that ...
    • _____ stated that...
    • _____ indicated that...
    • _____ emphasized that...
    • According to _____, ....


    2. Introduce whatever question or topic you would like to discus. Give students a few minutes to brainstorm as much as they can. Tell them that they have to keep on brainstorming until you tell them to stop so that none of them finish early.

    3. Give students two to three minutes to write their ideas using the sentence starters that you have written on the board. Tell them that they are to write as many sentences as they can, even if they are using the same idea.

    4. Once everybody has at least one or two ideas written down, have students choose the one that they feel is the most insightful. Tell them to read their sentence to themselves and to fix any mistakes.

    Guided Practice

    5. Allow students to get up, walk around the class and share with their classmates by reading their sentences directly off of their notes. Here are some rules that students should follow:

    • Students must keep on sharing until you tell them that the activity is finished.
    • Students must jot down the name and ideas of their classmates.
    • Students must follow a specific discussion structure and use sentence starters.

    When first introducing Give One - Get One, it is important to model how to share using good academic speech. You can choose a particularly capable student to help. Here's how a good discussion might look like:

    Student 1: May I share with you?
    Student 2: Yes
    Student 1: I feel that music is important because it can unite people.
    Student 2: In other words, you think that music brings people together?
    Student 1: That's right. What's your idea?

    Both students should be taking notes on their partner's idea.

    During this time, it's a great opportunity to walk around the class and nominate students to share their with the class later on. Target students who normally do not participate and affirm them by praising something specific about their answers.

    One way to liven up the activity is to play music while students are walking around and sharing.

    Class Discussion

    6. Have students go back to their seats and begin the class discussion. Use the students that you nominated earlier to jump start participation if necessary.

    7. After you feel that enough ideas have been drawn out, give students time to prepare to report on ideas that they heard from a classmate by allowing them to write down an answer using one of the "reporting" sentence starters.

    8. Continue the class discussion with students reporting on ideas that they heard from each other.

    Follow Through

    9. List names and ideas on the board. Use the ideas to move into your next activity!

    The Give One - Get One strategy does take some prep and it can be tough to teach students the procedure the first few times around. However, it's well worth it because it gets students to engage in academic conversation in a low-risk environment. By the time it's time for a class discussion, each student has already practiced sharing an idea with a few peers. It keeps every student accountable and is a great way to increase the energy of the class!

    Warm regards,

    Justin Lim

    Rosemead High School
    El Monte Union High School District


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