Creating Opportunities for Discussion in a Seventh Grade ELA/Social Studies Classroom in an Urban Middle School
Despite the strong evidence supporting discussion in the classroom, observational studies show that discussion is not a regular part of classroom instruction. This paper examined the changes in the quality of classroom discourse and the factors that could influence such changes as one ELA/social studies seventh grade teacher from an urban middle school participated in an intervention that provided designated time and structure for classroom discussion and explicit instruction of vocabulary words. Results indicated that after implementing the intervention with researcher assistance for three weeks in the first phase, the quality of the classroom discourse improved as indicated by the increase in students’ participation in the classroom discourse and extended interactions. Students also made significant gains in the target word knowledge compared to the control word knowledge. When the researcher support was withdrawn in creating and implementing the discussion activities in the second phase of the intervention lasting two weeks, the teacher was able to continue to provide opportunities for students to engage in discussion. As a result, no statistical difference was found in the quality of the classroom discourse in the second phase compared to the first phase of the intervention. Students, however, did not make significant gains in their target word knowledge compared to the control words.