Curating Group Discussions

You may follow these guidelines in a live or a virtual classroom or reading group. Our plan is designed for roughly forty-five to fifty minutes of discussion with breakout groups of 3-9 people. This could be slotted into an hour-long instruction period bookended by five minutes for class business at the start and five or ten minutes for wrap-up or debriefing. You may want to designate a facilitator for each group. The task of the facilitator could include timekeeping, keeping the discussion on topic, and ensuring shared airtime, and possibly note-taking (as long as it does not detract from the facilitator’s ability to fully participate. Stress, however, that all members of the group should assist in these activities.

Share the following schedule with your students:

2-5 min All participants introduce themselves, if they are new to each other. The facilitator should introduce themselves also in this role.

5 min Each group member reads aloud one of the rules for engagement (see below) until all of the rules have been voiced and the strategies for when the conversation is derailed.

10-15 min Discuss what has happened and is happening right now in your community, your state/country and, if you are comfortable talking about it, your life and friends and family.

10-15 min Connect to the play: Did you find touchpoints with those experiences in the play? Explain what resonated with you. This framework document might help you visualize those intersections.

15-20 min Talking about specific posts: The Comment leader begins by explaining their question/post and why they selected that passage. Everyone should look over the Comment reply responses, then point to those you found most compelling and explain why. You can add additional thoughts on the topic. Finally, can you identify other passages you see connected to this conversation?

5-10 min Write down the ideas/observations/experiences that you found important in this discussion. These could be shared with your group on a google doc or in some other format that everyone can see. The ideas do not have to be about Shakespeare, or even the pandemic.

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Rules for Engagement

    1. We agree that all voices deserve to be heard equally, and we agree to ensure that all voices receive thoughtful and engaged listeners. If someone is dominating the conversation -even if they are making great points- then we agree to respectfully thank them for their contributions and name who has not yet been heard or heard as much.

    2. We agree to be generous with our group members, and respect where they are at in their understanding of the play and of Shakespeare’s language.

    3. We agree to be polite in any disagreements. We will not tolerate harassment, hate speech, or anything less than civil discourse in this group.

    4. We agree to respect and honor group members’ silence if they choose not to engage in a conversation topic, and they are not required to explain their silence. All members have the right to stay silent or say “pass” on topics that are uncomfortable, triggering, or otherwise detrimental to their mental health.

    5. We will not tolerate harassment, hate speech, trolling, or anything less than civil discourse in this group.

    6. If someone is not following the rules, we agree to… [Here, the group should write down a list --visible to all-- of actions they could take if there is a concern. These might include pointing the concern out to the individual, putting that conversation on pause and moving to another topic, disbanding the group (in extreme circumstances), informing the course instructor via private message or by raising a hand.]

Conversation Sparkers*

    1. I’m really nervous/scared/uncomfortable saying this and/but …

    2. From my experience/perspective as [identity] …

    3. I’m afraid I may offend someone, and please let me know if I do, but …

    4. I’m not sure if this will make any sense, and/but …

    5. This is what I understand you to be saying: ____ Is that accurate?

    6. It seems as though some people may have had a reaction to that. Can you help me understand why?

    7. I’m having a “yeah but.” Can you help me work through it?

    8. I’m engaged but just needing time to process this. What I am working on processing is _____.

*Adapted from Robin DiAngelo and Özlem Sensoy, “Calling In: Strategies for Cultivating Humility and Critical Thinking in Antiracism Education,” Understanding & Dismantling Privilege 4, no. 2, (2014), http://www.wpcjournal.com/article/view/12101

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