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Paraphrase Plus: A Central Move of Engaging Classroom Discussions

By Dave Stuart Jr.

This will be a short one — with the first (read: frenzied) week of school just behind me and Crystal off on a girls retreat, it's Daddy Domination time, and the girls are bound to wake up in moments.

Although my school year has only just begun, I know that some of you are using the pop-up method for discussion and debating this year, and, even if you waited a few weeks before having your first debate, some of you are a few debates in.

And so it's a perfect time to talk about what, at the end of the day, might be the keystone habit of great discussion and debate. What “move matters most” (to borrow some phrasing from Graff and Birkenstein's famous title) when conversing in professional, academic, or even personal settings?

I derive the answer from several sources:

  • A few years of observing and reflecting on the differences between debates in my classroom that hum with electricity and those that… well, don't. (And yes — I have both, every single year!)
  • Reading and reflecting on ideas from Graff and Birkenstein's They Say, I Say and Jim Burke and Barry Gilmore's Academic Moves.
  • My colleague (and fellow blogger) Erica Beaton's early version of the graphic below.

Introducing Paraphrase Plus

Paraphrase Plus

This is the move I teach my classes as soon as they start to observe, in post-debate reflection, that our debates are repetitive. Paraphrasing before engaging in one of the three moves (agree and add-on; disagree with reasons; complicate) makes the discussion easier to follow, increases the accuracy of student speeches, and helps to avoid repetitive contributions.

Aaaand the girls are up, romping around, so it's time to say goodbye. Feel free to ask follow-up questions in the comments. I'll close with a recent photo of the girls, who all send their best your way. Have a great weekend.


Right to left: Laura, Marlena, and Hadassah, on Haddie's first day of Kindergarten.

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10 Responses to Paraphrase Plus: A Central Move of Engaging Classroom Discussions

  1. Teresa Easterling (@hapyeaster) September 12, 2015 at 9:29 am #

    Can’t wait to try this, and I could kick myself for not remembering Pop-up yesterday!! It’s time to review those great resources from you and really get into it! We were “discussing” a heated topic in my 7th-grade ELAR class yesterday, and we ended up in a discussion that could have been productive if I had been more planned. We had a situation where a student said something, but it was misunderstood and things went south, FAST! After I get my grades in and the clothes on to wash, looks like I’ll be spending some time reviewing my Dave Stuart resources!

    • davestuartjr September 12, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

      Teresa, I’ve had that happen plenty of times. Man — amazing how quickly things can turn! Thank you and best of luck!

  2. Cheri September 12, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    I like the paraphrase part here. I always forget that part. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Hugh September 12, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    Love it, Dave. This could easily be used in Socratic Seminars as well. Sounds like you are off to a great start this year.

  4. Ssuan September 12, 2015 at 5:57 pm #

    I just wanted to say thanks for supporting teachers. I look to you for ideas and inspiration. And you remind why I love teaching.

    • davestuartjr September 12, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

      Thank you so much, Susan — all the best to you. It is my pleasure to write for fellow educators 🙂

  5. ML September 13, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    I just have to say that your girls are adorable!!

    • davestuartjr September 14, 2015 at 7:12 pm #

      Oh ML don’t I know it! Surrounded by beauty — my best posts are thanks in large part to those three girls and their mama!

  6. Diann Espinoza (Maestra Espinoza) April 14, 2018 at 5:53 pm #

    Dave, would you mind sharing a PDF of your chart so I can print as a poster as well as a support for the students to have on their desks during a debate?

    • Michelle Riley January 18, 2019 at 1:33 pm #

      I would appreciate that as well.

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