The Fish Bowl: A Cooperative Learning Strategy {Post 5 of 5}

Well this wraps up my 5-part series on some of my favorite cooperative learning activities I have used over the years.  If you missed the first 4, you can find them here: "Expert Groups," "Q and A Match-Up," "Four Corners,"and "Circle Chats."


The Fish Bowl: A Cooperative Learning Strategy

How It Works:

  1. Divide your class in half.  One half will form the center circle, facing inward. The other half of the class will form the outer circle, facing inward as well.
  2. The students in the inner circle will discuss a predetermined topic.
  3. The outside circle will be listening to the discussion,  making note of interesting, new, or contradictory information.  They are not allowed to say a word at this point.
  4. The inner and outer circles can then switch positions and repeat the steps above.

Why I Love It:

  1. Eases Discussion Management: Since only half the class is discussing at a time, this makes it much easier to manage than a whole-class discussion.  
  2. Promotes Active Listening: Half the students have the explicitly given job of listening to the inner circle.  They understand that their turn to talk will come, which is more likely to free their attention from trying to get a turn to share, and focus it on attentive listening.  
  3. Great for Debate: I love this arrangement for classroom debates.  The physical position of students makes it very clear when it's time to listen and when it's time to talk.  You can switch through the roles a number of times during debate, and students have more incentive to listen when they are in the outer circle so that they can appropriately counter the points made from the inner circle.
  4. Peer Evaluation and Modeling: This model presents a valuable opportunity for students to evaluate their peers.  Successful student presenters also serve as wonderful models to other students who are not as skilled at class discussions.
Alright! 5 strategies down!  I hope you find them useful.  I would also love to hear about ones you love, that I didn't include.

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