Pam Grossman • Stanford University, Stanford, CA • Curriculum and Instruction in English
The Course: Scaffolding for Student Learning
The Unit: Preparing for Student-Centered Discussions
The Assignment: Two Facets of Learning from Experience


The Class


The Context

  • Students
  • Program
  • Institution

Focusing on Students



How do we prepare teachers to lead student-centered, text-based discussions in their classrooms?

The teaching of literature relies heavily on the use of classroom discussion, yet good discussions don't "just happen."  There is a tremendous amount of preparation involved for both teachers and students to create the conditions for engaged discussions of literary texts.  For the past few years, my colleagues and I have been experimenting with a variety of ways of helping students learn more about how to create these conditions in their own classrooms. 

The materials of secondary English teacher Yvonne Divans Hutchinson, "A Friend of Their Minds: Capitalizing on the Oral Tradition of My African American Students," have helped us to provide our students with an image of an experienced practitioner leading a very engaged discussion around text. The website has also provided access to the many materials and tools Hutchinson used (including using an anticipation guide, modeling metacognitive marking, and establishing norms for discussion) to prepare students for the discussion featured on her website. In these ways, the materials make the practice of leading rich discussions much more visible to novices.