English 4: Speech and Presentation

This week saw all student groups complete their first attempt at teaching their classmates about a specific topic. As detailed in my last post, each group of two students was responsible for 40 minutes of class time. To fill that time, they made discussion questions, lecture materials, class activities and homework assignments. Student groups were responsible for grading the homeworks (created with Google Forms).

In this first round, the topics were:

  • The History of Cheese
  • A Brief History of New York City
  • Confusing Country Names
  • The History of Barbecue
  • Mt. Fuji
  • The Pan-American Highway
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Cricket (the game, not the insect)
  • Black Friday
  • Christmas Foods

The biggest trouble students had was with discussion questions. In the debrief, we went over how good discussion questions do not have an easy answer (“What food do you like?”) and can’t be too difficult (“Why is shipping an important part of this country’s economy?”).

A good discussion question should allow all participants to answer and lead to more follow up discussion. It will will be easy for students to understand and be relatively easy to form an opinion on, even if they have no background knowledge about the subject. In the best case, the exchange of opinions will lead to a true discussion, so students are only finished with when the teacher says “done.”

What do you think are the best kinds of discussion questions to have in class??