From Civil Discourse

Q and A: Writer’s Workshop at the ESC of Central Ohio

On November 9, I facilitated a Writer’s Workshop at the Educational Service Center.  Below you will find the Q and A and some resources I use for the event.


During the workshop, we defined the importance of environment for the vulnerable work of sharing our writing together. The qualities the group determined were most important were: Courage, Purposefulness, and Respect, affectionately given the acronym CPR.

To begin, here is a link to the Power Point used in the workshop.  In addition, here are other resources you may find helpful:

Also, here are the TEDTalks from Brene Brown on vulnerability and shame that I mentioned.

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Q and A: Socratic Seminar on Civil Discourse

On October 26, I hosted a workshop for teachers who wanted to learn more about implementing Socratic discussion into their classroom.  More on that here.  

They left questions on their exit tickets.  See my responses below. 

Do you have any suggestions for lessons to build skills for the role of “Big Board”?  (This is a student role responsible for summarizing the discussion at half-time and at the end of each daily Socratic discussion.) 

The ability to listen to different perspectives and then objectively synthesize content is a valuable resource for all students.  However, it is definitely a skill that requires higher-order thinking.  In order to build this skill, I might suggest a lesson using a videotaped discussion.  It might look something like this:

  • Introduce the importance of being able to listen to a discussion objectively and synthesize ideas (would love to hear attention grabber ideas here!- Maybe showing a clip from the Presidential debates?)
  • Show a short panel discussion.  Here is one on cyber-bullying that’s 8 minutes.
  • As students watch the video, have them practice taking notes.
  • Share notes with one another in small groups and do the following: 1.) Share the content of each person’s notes and talk about similarities and differences in what each person wrote down 2.) Talk about strategies used to take notes, synthesize ideas, and come up with a list of best practices for note taking 3.) Create one list of the “Big Ideas” from the video to share with the whole class
  • Each group can share out their tips and their “Big Ideas” summary

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Civil Discourse: A Socratic Seminar on the Impact of Civility in Public Life

How does civility/incivility impact public life?

This is the driving question for a Socratic Seminar I hosted for teachers through the ESC of Central Ohio and PBL Ohio this Wednesday, October 26.  Here is a link to this and other upcoming events I will host in collaboration with them.

To begin conversation, here are two short news clips and a link to a letter.  After viewing/reading each one, write down initial impressions based upon the question: What is the impact of civility/incivility in modern, public life?  Also record other questions these news items evoke for you around the topic of civil discourse.

  1. Watch this two-minute summary of the second presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump which CNN named the “Scorched Earth Presidential Debate in Two Minutes.”  Also included on this same link is a montage video of Trump interrupting Hillary in another debate and a video titled “60 Seconds of Pure Vitrol” where Clinton and Trump insult one another.
  2. Also check out this three-minute video called “Going Beyond a Civil Discourse” from Fox News which describes violence and threats made to both parties during the 2011 healthcare debates.
  3. Lastly, here is the recently released letter that George Bush left in the Oval Office for Bill Clinton after he had lost the election.

At the workshop, we used this entry event to generate a list of questions together.  They are as follows:

  • What is civil discourse?
  • What is the current level of interest in civil discourse in our society?
  • What is the impact of social media on our civility?  
  • What is the impact of our modern lifestyle on civility?  (The immediate gratification culture)
  • When is civility more difficult and why?  
  • What is the future of civil discourse?  
  • Have we become less civil?  
  • Where is the line between public and private life?  Does this line impact our civility? Explain.
  • How can we stay engaged in the discourse when we have been disenchanted and do not want to do so?  
  • Why do I want to engage in this modern discourse?
  • Where is the line between civility and incivility?
  • Is incivility necessary and when?  
  • Why does there appear to be greater public response when the discourse is not civil?  
  • Which is worse, secret judgement that is civil or uncivil, outward judgement?
  • How does public discourse influence private behavior?
  • Should we, as educators, model and expect civil and/or uncivil discourse from ourselves and students?  
  • How do we model civil discourse as teachers and role models?   
  • How does civility, or a lack of, influence production?  

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