Designing Student-Centered Discourse

Focus Area: Student-Centered Literacy


Phase: Launch

Available Now


The key components of literacy are reading, writing, speaking and listening. In addition, viewing/representing should be considered a domain, as it encompasses our “learning to read” population. Discourse is essential to making student thinking visible and is a prerequisite to supporting students to make claims and share their perspectives. It is also important to remember that within these domains we give weight to not only conventions, structure, and literature (both fiction and non-fiction) but also to identity, actively participating in text-based discourse, engaging in the research and writing processes, and identifying and evaluating claims-based evidence. It is within these structures of discourse and defense that we can promote student-centered literacy practices by providing students with the comprehension and analytical skills necessary in order to engage in discourse and the defense of their claims, teachers can promote a student-centered classroom focused on rich, text based, student-driven discussions as well as self and peer reflection and feedback.  These skills align with the Common Core and state standards that increase the rigor of the analysis that students need to do with text or in content areas.  Sometimes, defense can appear in classrooms solely as graphic organizers, but here, we link it tightly to discourse and a more student-centered and dynamic learning process.

In this in-person workshop, we will define how providing students with the skills to engage in effective and productive ‘discourse and defense’ can lead to student-centered outcomes, and raise the rigor of our literacy instruction by promoting student ownership.  We will explore and experience strategies, tools, and resources to help us unpack what these practices look like in the classroom.  In particular, we will explore how discourse can drive key reading and comprehension skills, and support students to identify author’s claims and evidence as well as develop their own based on textual evidence.  By the end of the experience, participants will walk away with a vision for implementation, access to the BetterLesson Lab and its resources, and a curated list of discourse and defense strategies to use in upcoming lessons.


This learning experience is designed for K-12 teachers and can be provided by grade bands (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12) to learn about the expectations and supports needed at each level.


  • 6 hours
  • Participants will need a computer with Internet access

Learning Experience


  • Defining key concepts and ideas collaboratively by unpacking the language through modeled protocols
  • Defining foundational elements of discourse and defense through self-assessment and understanding current research
  • Defining a vision for implementing more discourse and defense in classroom realities


  • Experiencing several discourse best practices and strategies for ourselves, and debriefing to discuss them
  • Exploring ways to give students choice and ownership of the evidence gathering process
  • Exploring student-led questioning and discourse strategies in the BetterLesson Lab and in viewing classroom videos to unpack scenarios


  • Build discourse and defense into an upcoming lesson and receive peer feedback