Commit to building conversational spaces, not merely declaring them…

In his book Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom (2018), Matthew R. Kay highlights the key to conducting conversations about challenging topics. “In order to nurture hard conversations about race, first we must commit to building conversational safe spaces, not merely declaring them.”

Discussion protocols support the development of the listening and speaking skills necessary for productive conversations about subjects that are difficult to talk about. They also facilitate self-reflection, honesty, inclusion, and sharing. Rooting discussion in mentor texts, art, and primary sources can also build confidence.

Want to try a protocol?

Try the Block Party

The Block Party

Block Party  has students mingle and share quotes in pairs, then in quads, then in a whole group. It’s a protocol rooted in a short amount of text, allows students to talk with just one person and then expand the conversation slowly until the entire class is involved.

Don’t forget to de-brief!

Spend a few minutes debriefing how it felt to use the protocol. Debriefing ensures that all voices were heard, and intentionally creates a classroom environment that feels safe for courageous conversations.

Find More Protocols

School Reform Initiative Protocols

This list is lengthy and comprehensive. Click on “Protocols by Tag” to more easily find ones that suit your purposes and goals.

Facing History Protocols

Facing History offers a broader range of “teaching strategies” that goes beyond discussion protocols to include structured classroom activities designed to “strengthen your students’ literacy skills, nurture critical thinking, and create a respectful classroom climate.”