‘Split into small teams and discuss …’ 

Why won’t they discuss?

There might be a whole lot of reasons for that:

  • I don’t know enough words.
  • I’m worried about my grammar.
  • I’m worried about my pronunciation.
  • I’m not interested in the topics.
  • I don’t have enough time to think.
  • It’s too quiet in here.
  • *My teacher scares me – she puts too much pressure on us.
  • I don’t have any ideas.

Source: Sandy Millin, Why won’t they speak

Or they may be just plain tired. And yes, it’s a good enough reason. Or they might be under the weather.  Or it’s the imprint of their previous learning – ‘that’s how we learn, discuss, etc.’.

While we might choose to tackle individual issues, one solution that might work a treat would be to put them in an environment of structure and have them refocus from meditating on ‘to talk or not to talk’ to something more productive like ‘who to talk to’. That’s when language begins.

My today’s post is a collection of eight class discussion techniques to structure classroom discussion and ensure all students’ equal participation.

Pet Survey (3)

*To download the poster, please click here.

What are your favourite techniques? 

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Useful links and resources:

The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies from Jennifer Gonzales – a must read!

A few discussion activities for English language students from the British Council

Cooperative Learning and the Language Classroom from On the Same Page ELT

Topic Talk: Discussions in the Classroom from Tekhnologic

5 Ways to Make Class Discussions More Exciting from Edutopia


  1. Wow, this is a great list of ideas Svetlana! Thank you for this timely post! I have never tried GoGoMo and like it very much, and love the Thinking Hat variation with such a variety of points of view! Have a question re Quiz/Trade idea: if all the students are raising their hands, how do they find a partner (eye contact, I guess, or another secret here?) Also, are they all standing up? If not, what are the ones who are sitting doing? – The questions are meant as clarification because I would like to give it a try!

    Thank you, as always!

    • Hi Zhenya, glad you find it useful! Re the Quiz, Quiz, Trade, it’s one of Kagan Structures, oldie but goldie, always works a treat (with teachers as well:) If all participants raise their hands at the same time, they might just go with the partner next to them or find a partner by making eye contact, as in any other mingling activity. Check this video Hope this helps.

      • Thank you Svetlana: never harms to get back to basics (love Kagan’s activities). The video answered all my questions! I like the clapping part when the partners meet (will work with teachers, too!) I am thinking to demonstrate some of these with a group of new trainers I will be working with soon. Thanks once again, have a great week! Zhenya

  2. I’ve heard about Tekhnologic and I use materials from British Council; however the rest of mentioned websites are new to me, so thanks for sharing.

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