The last topic for fishbowl discussion is on this topic: "Are Junior and Penelope the *perfect* couple?" We will define as a group the definition of a perfect couple and then move to let the students lead the pro- con- fishbowl discussion. This topic is important for the class because it was student-initiated (SL9-10.1), allowing the students to have an additional measure of control in how they frame the discussion and carry it out. It is pretty exciting because one of the overarching concerns of the course is helping students to develop proper argumentation skills (W9-10.1), and the act of debating this topic in a 2x2 fishbowl creates the exigence for students to develop criteria on what a perfect couple is. And interestingly, the students will begin their discussion by talking about obvious types of criteria: in this case, I expect them to focus on looks or apparent compatibility of the two in the couple, and then hopefully delve deeper into some of the more substantial issues that affect couplehood. In any case, I am thrilled to see the students engaging in a topic that they developed, and this particular topic is making its maiden voyage with this class, so it's a first ever!
I will guide the students to comment on the success of the fishbowl discussions, eliciting some of the social norms that we have developed together. I will ask:
1.) How well did you do at staying engaged?
2.) How well did we do at being inclusive?
I will then guide students to process the content goals of the activity by exploring the criteria that they have developed in their arguments. For example, in arguing (for fishbowl #4) about whether or not Gordy could be a suitable replacement friend for Rowdy, I will remind the students of the reasons that they gave in defining a best friend and how they applied these in the discussion. I plan to write these criteria on the board and to ask them how they developed these and how they might prioritize them if they opt to write a longer paper on this topic.
On their 1:1 chrombooks, the students will then write an argumentative paragraph on one of the topics discussed and will include two quotations with explanations. This is an important culmination of the activity, because even though the fishbowl discussion posed a significant opportunity for students to lead the class discussion and such is worth of their full attention in its own right (CCSS SL9-10.1), the ability for our class to move this oral argument discourse into written argument (CCSS W9-10.1) presents a significant opportunity.
Personally, I have conducted my own research in preparation for my doctoral studies in this area, and I remain convinced, along with several of my mentors (e.g. George Hillocks, 2011) that students can gain important practice in argumentation when they engage in negotiating substantial arguments in class discussions. Unfortunately, such extended discourse is not often practiced (Applebee, et al., 2003) as student turns are often restricted to short bits rather than extended explorations of ideas.
Thus, as we move into writing an argumentative prompt, the students are reminded of the save vocabulary that we have been dealing with throughout: select the right evidence (at least two quotations), cite it properly, and explain your reasoning for your reader.