Using Discussion Boards to Encourage Collaboration in the Classroom

Collaboration has become more of a focus for many teachers throughout the past few years, and there are so many ways to incorporate it into the classroom. Today I’m going to share one of these ways with you, by talking through how you can use discussion boards as a tool for encouraging collaboration amongst your students.

Firstly, let me explain what a discussion board is. A discussion board is simply a ‘board’ (or page, or wall of post-it notes) that features a discussion prompt and space/s for more than one student to write a response to the prompt. Below is an example of one of the discussion boards in my Reading Response Discussion Boards set.

A discussion board is a simple and effective tool to use to help facilitate collaboration amongst students. Discussion boards remove some of the pressure of ‘on the spot’ discussions, by allowing students to first write an individual response down before verbally sharing their ideas with others. Discussion boards also give you a written sample of students’ discussion responses, which you can either keep a copy of for your own records or use to start whole class discussions later on. 

There are many ways to use discussion boards, but here’s how I’d recommend using them with middle – upper primary aged students. 

Once you’ve organised your discussion boards, students will need to be divided into groups. I recommend having 3 – 6 students in each group. Then, each student in the group should be given time to write their response to the question on their group’s discussion board in one of the box spaces provided. You can either have students write their responses individually or at the same time.

When all students have written their responses, they can then spend some time discussing what they wrote with their group, and responding to the points that others wrote on the discussion board. If you’d like to have them give a recap of their discussion to you or the rest of the class at the end of the lesson, you can do that too.

While students are discussing the points they wrote on the discussion boards, you can be going around to each group, listening to their discussions, and helping students to elaborate and go deeper with their responses when necessary. Once they’ve finished their discussions, you can keep the discussion boards in your records and bring them out to help remind students of what they discussed, or to see the different perspectives your students shared as you plan future learning tasks.

Once you’ve used discussion boards with your students a couple of times, they can quickly become a natural part of your class discussions. Students will gain confidence with writing their responses and will be able to explain their reasoning in person with more detail. So, if you’re looking for a simple way to give your class discussions more structure while also encouraging deeper thinking, give discussion boards a try! 

I hope that you’re inspired to try using discussion boards with your students. You can find a copy of the reading response discussion boards pictured in this post in my store. 

Do you want another collaborative activity idea to try with your students while you’re here? Then have a read through my post on using music and dance to encourage collaboration.

Have a question or a request? You can contact me at blueskydesignsbymrst@gmail.com.

P.S. I love to hear how my tips and resources are helping you in your teaching, so leave a comment to let me know!

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