A Discussion Web helps students visualize the key elements of an issue and quickly identify opposing points of view on the matter. This organizational tool guides discussions by allowing students to identify ideas of contention, to weigh opposing viewpoints, to critically evaluate the arguments, and to draw conclusions.
Discussion Webs are useful tools for readers. This strategy offers a clear "point-counterpoint" visual framework for analyzing texts.
Steps to Discussion Webs:
Distribute a selected reading to the class. Be sure to select a controversial document that elicits clearly defined opposing viewpoints.
Ask the class to identify the main question of the text. Once consensus is reached, post the question for quick reference.
Divide the class into small groups of 3 or 4 students. Provide the groups with the Discussion Web graphical organizer (see below).
Ask the groups to write down at least 3 reasons for answering the question "Yes" and 3 reasons for answering the question "No."
On a simple "T-chart," record students' positive and negative responses. Use this list to promote discussion. Have students evaluate each reason ("pro" and "con") objectively and fairly.
After discussing the individual reasons, encourage each student to decide on a position on the general question. Point out that understanding both sides of an argument does not preclude taking a stand.
Have each student write his final conclusion on an index card. Collect the cards and tally the responses. Share the results with the class and list the most common reasons ("pro" and "con") for these decisions on a shared Discussion Web form.
Alvermann, D.E. (1991). The discussion web: A graphic aid for learning across the curriculum. The Reading Teacher, 45, 92-99.
Lenski, Susan D., Wham, Mary Ann, & Johns, Jerry L. (1999). Reading and learning strategies for middle and high school students. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.