In order to fully implement a new speech genre such as the fishbowl, I place a dais (table) in the middle of the room, in which four students sit, two facing two. The rest of the class will watch them offer their opinions about a given question, citing textual evidence; they will take notes on what the students in the middle will say; and then the students around the outer ring will ask engaging follow-up questions about what has been said (RL9-10.1).
In order to energize this activity and to give students the chance to explore it with a greater sense of agency, I break them into the new speech genre by offering them the chance to conduct a fishbowl on a non-academic topic. It was interesting that a student had suggested this and had a topic in mind already: what is better Hockey or Volleyball? This is a likely topic because we have both a hockey player and a volleyball player in class, both of whom happen to be girls, so the debate is not likely to break down along gender lines. The purpose of running this non-academic activity is for students to begin to appropriate the new speech genre of the fishbowl, to become comfortable in their roles (facilitator, fishbowl participant, and follow-up question-asking), and to develop the esprit de corps necessary to pull the whole event off (SL 9-10.6)
The students seem interested at doing this non-academic activity to start, and I plan to stop occasionally to reinforce what is the role of the student moderator, the students in the middle group (the fish) and the students outside of the group that form a ring around them (outside the fishbowl). The key point is to move the students toward an engaged and self-regulated discussion of the text.
After the sports-themed fishbowl demo, I ask the students how we can make the fishbowl "amazing." They write their responses in their notes, which I will collect at the end, so the accountability is built in. That said, I am curious to hear what they will say or bring up in this discussion. I plan to begin to post these ideas writ large in the classroom as a part of codifying our classroom culture.
The first group will discuss the question: Is it right for Junior to leave the reservation. This material is for the most part well trod as of now, and it's a bit of a throwback to earlier lessons. Nearly any student in class, even those who are a little behind, can talk at length about this topic, so it serves as a safe topic for some students. I plan to have a student moderator to call on group members to speak and to call on the class to give follow-up questions. I am curious to hear about the complexity of the questions that the students will ask as follow-up questions.
At the end of class, I will ask the students how the class activity went and get their feedback. I use this feedback on exit slips to plan the next whole-class, student-led discussion, which will be, in this case, a panel discussion.