Creating a Classroom Culture of Kindness and Respect During Discussions and Debate

February 12-18 is Random Acts of Kindness Week, an annual opportunity to unite through kindness. It all starts with one act – one smile, one coffee for a stranger, one favor for a friend. It’s an opportunity for participants to leave the world better than they found it and inspire others to do the same.

For #RAKWeek2017, access standards-aligned resources that teach important social and emotional learning skills and stimulate thoughtful conversations about the importance of kindness in our daily lives. Learn more at Discover Kindness in the Classroom.

Ready for Random Act of Kindness Week? Explore the Kindness Generator, create your own classroom page, and post kindness challenges for students to complete. Share their kindness with the world and be inspired by other acts of kindness trending around the globe.

To continue facilitating a classroom culture of kindness and respect, explore these instructional strategies for encouraging constructive discussions even during difficult conversations. These curated ideas from the popular Spotlight on Strategies series encourage self-discipline during classroom discussions, citing evidence when asserting opinions, and persevering even when disagreements arise.

Four Corners

This kinesthetic strategy encourages cooperative learning and helps students develop listening, critical thinking, and decision-making skills in the classroom. Each of the four corners of the room corresponds to a possible opinion about a thought-provoking statement. Students go to appropriate corners, based upon their opinions, to discuss and defend their opinions. (Canadian subscribers)

Gone Fishin’

A variation on a “fishbowl”, Gone Fishin’ allows students to practice presenting their opinions in a respectful and productive manner and creates a safe environment for students to express different perspectives on various topics. Students are given deep and debatable questions and small groups have informed discussions in front of the rest of the class. (Canadian subscribers)

Talking Sticks

Talking Sticks provides students with an equitable structure for group discussion as students in groups use the talking stick to designate a speaker for an established amount of time. Using a talking stick in the classroom can help students learn to self-monitor their participation in group discussions, leading to more purposeful contributions and better listening. (Canadian subscribers)

Partner Time

When students have the opportunity to discuss and compare ideas and opinions with a wide variety of their peers, they develop a broader understanding of the world and are more flexible and creative in their problem-solving. Partner Time can be used to effectively create partner and collaboration groups so that students are exposed to a variety of opinions and connections with their classmates. (Canadian subscribers)

Persuade Me

Persuade Me teaches students to create an effective argument using six elements of a persuasive argument. Based on Stephen Toulmin’s model, students identify a claim, the grounds or data to support the claim, and a warrant that links the grounds to the claim. (Canadian subscribers)


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    Using a talking stick in the classroom can help students learn to self-monitor their participation in group discussions, leading to more purposeful contributions and better listening

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