Inside the Fishbowl

A week later and we were back at it. This time we decided that since students never saw a model of a successful spiderweb discussion, we would use a fishbowl discussion. The fishbowl would serve two purposes.

  1. Make the discussion smaller for the people inside
  2. Provide an opportunity for people looking in from the outside to analyze the discussion itself

Preparing the Scene

Diane and I set the room up in advance and even wrote a message on each desk so students would be reminded to include evidence to support opinions.

WITTMYST?
What in the text makes you say that?

Diane created a template for people outside of the fishbowl to document the discussion along with the types of comments and contributions that were being made in order to analyze the discussion.

  • Star – Started the discussion
  • P – Process (contributions that were made to facilitate the discussion)
  • O – Opinion (contributions that merely stated an opinion but did not use evidence to support it)
  • E – Evidence (contributions that stated opinion as well as text evidence to support it)
  • D – Disruption (comments that did not lend to the discussion or were off topic)
  • C – Clarify (contributions that explained further when/if someone was confused)

The Discussion

When students arrived, they all participated in a quick write to get their thinking down on paper in preparation for the discussion.

Once students had the opportunity to write down their thinking, they turned and talked with their shoulder partner for a minute as a way to give them some confidence before the bigger discussion.

For the fishbowl, Diane decided to use anyone who was reading any of the historical fiction book club books that were based around the holocaust. The titles included Prisoner B-3087, Orphan, Monster, Spy, The Boy Who Dared, and Projekt 1065.

Once the discussion began, those on the outside of the circle followed along and documented the types of comments and contributions.

The discussion
Not the best sound, but listen to the discussion in the beginning and see how it changes as students become more comfortable with one another.

The Feedback and Reflection

Once student finished their discussion, students on the inside of the fishbowl were able to reflect on how they thought the discussion went and look over the data collected from the people on the outside of the circle. Those on the outside were also able to reflect on what they noticed as well.

Looking over the data before reflecting
A clip of the feedback discussion in one class

What Does the Data Say?

Period 1
Period 4
Period 5
Period 7

Look at the Growth!

Last Week – 5 disruptions, 23 opinions without evidence, 13 did not participate
This Week – no disruptions, all opinions are supported by evidence, everyone participated

Now What?

Diane and I looked over all the data individually and then together, and Diane came to the conclusion that 7th and 5th periods made a lot of growth. The students commented that it was easier to discuss and go deeper when the circle was smaller and the participants weren’t reading the same book but were reading a book grounded in the same time period of history. They liked the rich discussion that involved multiple books. We will continue this method and maybe even have multiple spider web discussions going at one time.

First and 4th period still have some work to do, but we can celebrate the increase in using text evidence to support opinions. For example, last week 7th period had 23 contributions that stated only opinion without support from the text. This week the same group supported every opinion stated with evidence! There were still a small number of opinion only contributions in periods 1 and 4, but we discussed using small group and conferring time to meet with those individuals for some guided practice and a strategy lesson that utilizes a T-chart.

Since 1st period still had several disruptions within the discussion, we discussed videotaping a small group from other classes to share with period 1 as a model and having the class collect data and analyze the discussion from the video then discuss what they can do as a class moving forward.

Take Away

For me, the take away was clear. Each group made growth based on the data collected; however, each group had their own needs moving forward. It’s becoming clear that we can address the needs of the particular class or individuals within the class as we would normally in workshop. It is a common pitfall that teachers do for all classes what only one may need or do for all students what only some need. We discovered through the data how to differentiate for the individual needs and not hold others back while addressing them.

Time to differentiate!

2 thoughts on “Inside the Fishbowl

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