College Readiness Skills

Five Fun Weekly Discussion Strategies to Engage All Students

Jenn Liu

Are your whole-class discussions often dominated by the same few students?

As educators, we recognize class discussions are an excellent way to foster critical thinking, active participation, respectful dialogue, and diverse perspectives.

Yet, we unintentionally overlook all the fun discussion strategies at our disposal and end up having our students discuss different class topics the same way all the time.

While we might just forget other strategies we know because we’re so “teacher-tired,” whole-class discussions aren’t the best approach for all your students, especially the shy ones.

Not to mention, they can be boooooring!

Ready to change things up?!

I have a simple solution to improve your teaching approach, help you remember other discussion strategies you can use, and get all your students participating, not just the outspoken ones! 

Are you ready for it?

Use a different discussion strategy each day of the week!

Instead of trying to have whole-class discussions that only a few participate in, get your students talking one-on-one or in small groups first.

But, to make it more fun, try a different discussion format each day of the week!

This is something I do, and to help my overworked brain, I used alliteration to name these strategies and make them easier to remember.

By the way, these aren’t my original strategies, and you may know them by other names. Of course, you also don’t need to have a discussion during every class, but this naming system sure makes it easy to remember which strategy to use when you want to have your students share their ideas.

Here are my “Days of the Week Discussion Strategies”:

Mingle-to-Music Monday

Two-Lines Tuesday

Which-Side Wednesday


Four-Corners Friday

This is how it works:

All you need to do is give your students a prompt or agree/disagree statement related to your class lesson and then have them share their responses in the discussion format of the day! 

Before beginning, I usually have students do a “quick write” response so they feel prepared to share. Or you can give them several different prompts to respond to in writing before you begin the discussions. Remind your students to bring their paper or notebooks to their discussion so they don’t forget what to share. You could even have them use clipboards and take notes on what they learn from their discussions.

Essentially, these strategies can be used with whatever you want your students to share, whether that’s a question about your lesson, their reaction to a text or visual, their stance on an issue, an update on their projects, a review of their notes (e.g., comparing notes to make sure they didn’t miss anything important), or a social-emotional-learning (SEL) question to check-in on how they’re doing.

Here are some discussion rules to consider enforcing with all the strategies:

  1. Take turns sharing and listening without interrupting.
  2. Try to acknowledge what the other person says before sharing your perspective.
  3. No personal attacks, put-downs, or teasing.
  4. Stay on topic by building upon what the person speaking before you said — either adding your point or respectfully disagreeing.

Mingle-to-Music Monday 

Find a fun song to play for the class or ask for song requests. When you start the music, students should stand up and find someone to share with.

When you stop the music, students should end their conversation and look for a new partner to share their perspective, ideas, etc., but perhaps another point they have (or you can give a new prompt), at which time you’ll restart the music. Repeat a few times.

The point of the music is not only to make this fun, but to help students feel more comfortable sharing, with the music making it difficult for everyone other than their partner able to hear them.

Tell your students to make sure no one feels left out; if they see someone needing a partner, they should go up to that person. If you have an odd number of students, the last person to find someone should join a pair or you can participate so everyone has a partner.

Two-Lines (or Two-Circles) Tuesday

Have your students stand in two equal lines or concentric circles (one on the inside and one on the outside) so everyone is facing someone. If you have an odd number of students, then you’ll need to also participate.

Students should share one of their points, ideas, etc. with their partner. Then, upon your signal, students in one of the lines move one spot to the right so they are now facing a new partner and share a new point, or you can give a new prompt. With two lines, the person left over at the end would move to the beginning of the line.

Which-Side Wednesday

You might also know this strategy as “Philosophical Chairs” or “This or That.”

Prepare 5-10 agree/disagree statements on your lesson topic. You could also have your students help you with this. This is a great activity to do before, during, or after reading a text or watching a video or film.

Then have your students stand in the middle of the room as you read each statement aloud one at a time. 

If they agree after a statement is read, they move to one designated side of the room; if they disagree, they move to the opposite side. Give students a few minutes to discuss why they chose their side with the people on their side. This is a way to warm them up and gain confidence before you ask volunteers to share with the whole class. You could even go back and forth a few times between the agree and disagree sides asking different students to share.

Think-(Write)-Pair-Share Thursday

This low-risk strategy is also known as “Turn and Talk.” I like to include the “write” part for challenging questions that students may need more time to process before sharing. 

This strategy is as simple as it sounds. After being given a prompt, students share their response with a nearby partner. You can make it more fun by having students find a partner wearing the same color (or same something else, e.g., same homeroom or Advisory teacher).

Four-Corners Friday

This discussion strategy is very similar to Which-Side Wednesday, but instead of choosing one side to move to, students have four choices.  

You’ll need four designated corners in the room, each representing a different stance on the issue under discussion. The most common stances teachers use are “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Strongly Disagree.”

Then follow through like you would with the Which-Side Wednesday strategy, reading one at a time 5-10 agree/disagree statements related to your lesson topic or essential question. After each statement is read, your students should move to one of the four corners to show their stance. 

Then you would give students a few minutes to discuss why they chose their stance with the people in their corner and/or with the whole class. The movement among corners helps to emphasize the possible diversity of opinions in your class. 

Alternative Friday Strategy: Fishbowl Friday

This is also known as a Socratic seminar. Read more on my blog for how to do to do this! I didn’t include a description here because these are all strategies for somewhat quick and low-prep discussions and Socratic seminars tend to take much longer.

Take It Up a Notch

To make these discussions more challenging, you can require your students to give textual evidence to support their opinions or to ask higher-level, critical-thinking questions in their discussions.

While these are smaller group discussion formats I shared, this doesn’t mean you need to stop having your whole-class discussions. Starting with these smaller discussions will help to ensure all your students are participating without feeling the pressure of sharing in front of the whole class. This also helps to prevent groupthink. Read more here to find out what I mean!

You could still have students share with the entire class afterward, but make it less intimidating by asking for group or partner representatives to voluntarily share what they talked about.

Again, the beauty of these strategies is they’re easy to remember because each one goes with the day of the week! Just one less thing for you to think about!

discussion strategies

By the way, if you want to try the Which-Side Wednesday discussion strategy, aka Philosophical Chairs, and would like a done-for-you resource to give your students practice with this discussion format, check out this resource in my Teachers Pay Teachers store! It’s also a great way to get your students thinking about college!

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