Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fishbowling In Middle School


Never done one before?


Preparing Your Students For Fishbowl

Quickwrite: Ask your students to write about a time that they had an argument.  
How did they know it was an argument? Was it merely that they had differing opinions? Or was it that they both presented facts and arguments to support a point of view? 

This is a great way to get the misconception out of the way that for our purposes an argument is not: "I want ice cream." vs "No"... or "Clean your room now" vs. "NO, later". A fishbowl is not: "I think we should be allowed to because..." vs. "I think we shouldn't be allowed to."  It needs to be a dialogue.

We also used these worksheets to support "building a better argument".

To emphasize this point, we shared a clip of this video with our students :
The skit emphasizes that an "argument" is not just a "contradiction" (start around 1:



Deciding What to Fishbowl


Fishbowling works with nearly any topic...but especially controversial ones in LA/SS.

Check out this article from ASCD:

We have used it as an activity prior to writing an argumentative or persuasive piece.  Check out this link to see the difference between the two types.

Setting Up the Fishbowl

This activity most likely requires rearranging your classroom seats
to allow for movement between the fishbowl (inner circle) and observers (outer cirlce)

Each student receives a:
  • Fishbowl Discussion
  • any research or articles that were used to prepare for the fishbowl,
  • and a set of three white notecards (each represent 'comment')*,
  • 1 purple notecard (represents 'question')*,
  • and 1 green notecard (represents 'research based comment')*.
*my co-teacher typed, printed, and laminated these with explanation of the types of comments.


The participation rubric supports engagement for both observers and fishbowlers...
Students self-assess and turn it in as a class grade.
In our experience, students later used the sheet as a reference for writing an essay, as well.

The notecards help the students organizationally in the fishbowl...
They hold up their card or place it in the center 
to signify they are going to speak.
After students become used to the routine, you may find the cards are not needed.

Your Role During The Fishbowl


Monitor movement.  (especially the first time) Students can "tap in"...
meaning the outer circle can get up at any point and "tap" a person in the inner circle 
who has already spoken.  They will switch seats, bringing with them all of their materials.  
This will happen seamlessly, but maybe not at first. That's where you come in.

Questioning. Anticipate arguments and opinions and stir the pot once and a while, interjecting to facilitate the direction of the discussion.

Read Your Audience Are you getting the sense that the outer circle is getting antsy? Or has opinions they aren't sharing?  Maybe step in and dictate their movement to the center.  

Document Tally the number of times a person speaks and key ideas. You will use this along with their self-assessments to give a participation grade.


Are you a BYOD School?

(Bring Your Own Device)

Incorporate a social media!  Allow students in the outer circle (observers) 
to digitally contribute "significant questions" to "stir the (inner circle) pot".

Allow the students to have their devices out on a class celly (or other app)
and project their digital contributions.  Point out the significant questions to the inner circle to discuss!

(Note: This is a GREAT thing to allow various forms of participation for shy students....
especially good for differentiating in the special education co-taught classroom.)


How did we use this "kick the hornet's nest" idea in our classroom?

My co-teacher and I taught the first amendment and the landmark tinker case 
and students annotated and analyzed the Tinker case.  The students fishbowl discussed whether or not they believed students should be allowed to wear "I heart boobies" bracelets, anti-gay shirts, and anti-president shirts.  It took approximately thirty minutes to fishbowl each topic (1/day).   We followed up by having the students write an argumentative essay.  They picked one topic and argued for or against the plaintiff, citing evidence from Tinker and the First Amendment.

How have YOU used Fishbowls? Do you have any other materials to share? Comment below! :)


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