Getting the Ball Rolling

What are some of the best ways to start and facilitate a class discussion about science topics?

– B., Arkansas

I have used many different ways to get science discussions going. I think the key is to either “wow” them or provide them with some structure to get the ball rolling.

If you have a really good demonstration or discrepant event (such as a skewer through a balloon or an ammonia fountain) the students will perk up and take notice. Have them work in groups to figure out how it worked and then have a full class discussion of the answers.

Start a new topic with a What I Know–Want to find out–Learned (KWL) chart. Have students fill in the K column and at least two items in the W column, then share their work with a partner. They can challenge their partners’ knowledge or agree with them. They may even be able to answer their partners’ questions. Anything they learn goes in the L column. You can have students share their questions with the whole class. This launches the next phase of learning where they get their answers.

Graphic organizers can lead discussions—there is a variety online. Students start on their own and then share. I found a few online and have them in a collection in the NSTA Learning Center. (

Hope this helps!


Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

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