At least once a year, I teach a small upper division seminar course that is heavy on discussion. I have been working on strategies to get students to talk through issues that their classmates raise rather than to jump from one free associated comment to another or to think discussion is just asking their classmates to explain things. Last summer I saw some movie about an improv troupe in which they did this exercise where one person started with a name and then the next person had to say something related to that name and the next person something related to that and so forth.
It occurred to me that this exercise could help students think about how to listen to one another and to respond in related ways. During the third week of class, after we had tried to discuss and ran into the typical problems–students don’t pursue issues after the first response, students don’t directly take up issues their classmates raise, students jump quickly to other issues and remain on the surface for all of them, or students speak just to ask clarifying questions rather than to build on ideas–I started class introducing this game. Read more