Strategy #1- Write Around
The purpose of a write around is to engage students in a silent conversation. While we eagerly want students to share their opinions or debate things they've read or discussed in class out loud, this strategy takes a slightly more inclusive approach. This strategy also develops students writing ability by asking them to both think critically and constructively respond to different students' opinions.
Students align themselves in groups of three to five. Four students works best. Then, students are asked to read a text, which could be about anything. In my case, students read about Alfred Wegener, the geologist who first theorized that all of the continents were once part of a a super-continent that slowly drifted apart and spread throughout the world.
After reading, students take out a sheet of paper and write for approximately two minutes. They must write the entire time, but are allowed to write about what interested them, what they agree or disagree with, or something they might have a question about. Once they've done their two minutes of writing, they then pass that piece of paper to the person next to them.
That new student is then asked to read what the previous student wrote, and respond to it. This both allows the student to analyze thought about what they read, and then respond appropriately. Once students have done this 2-3 minute rotation three times, they then take a look at the conversation that unfolded based on what they originally wrote. This now opens up a whole new opportunity for conversation.
One follow up idea is to have a discussion by asking students if they had an interesting conversation or debate come up in their write around.
This strategy has great potential for something the students read which is somehow debatable or controversial. The first idea that comes to mind would be when we first read about Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Students are going to have biases coming into class, and this would be an appropriate way to let the students share what they believe without making it disrespectful or a shouting match.
Another use of this strategy for me would be as a conclusion to a chapter or a unit. The students would not have to read anything beforehand, but rather reflect on the things they've learned and then have a writtern conversation about things they particularly enjoyed or learned.