Welcome to Parlay's Complete Guide to Live RoundTables!
Class discussions come in many shapes and sizes. Some teachers use them every day, while other’s use them once a term. Some are organic and informal, while others are very structured and deliberate. Of course, we love them all. Just so we're all on the same page, here is our goal for you after reading this guide:
Our goal is for you to have a simple, fun and repeatable framework for creating meaningful and inclusive class discussions with Parlay’s Live RoundTable.
Sound good? Awesome. Let’s get started!
(Note: The methodologies outlined below are only our recommended best practices. Every day teachers come up with new and unique ways to use the tool.)
There are many different types of class discussions that have inspired this guide and Parlay’s Live RoundTable activities more broadly. Here’s a brief list of the top ones (click on titles to learn more):
Socratic Seminars - The Ancients knew a thing or two about learning through conversations. We were particularly inspired by the Socratic Seminar’s focus on before-class preparation, open-ended questions, and a commitment to supporting claims with evidence.
Harkness Tables - This methodology has become very popular in recent years thanks to the fine folks at St. Philips Academy Exeter. Our favourite parts about Harkness Tables are the deliberate focus on of student driven conversation, the role of the Note Taker, and teacher tracking of how students are demonstrating specific conversational skills.
Fishbowl Discussions - Inclusivity and listening skills - that’s why we love the Fishbowl! Everyone inside the small discussion group gets more opportunity to contribute. Students around the outside are asked to listen patiently and take notes.
- Philosophical Chairs - In this methodology, students are asked to take a position, walk to a part of the room, defend it and change their minds if necessary as new arguments are presented. We really like how this process encourages students to take a position, explore options and not be afraid to change their mind.
**Helpful Tip** Before you start using the Live RoundTable - it's a good idea to have created your account and invited students to your course.
🏫 Part 1 - Classroom Set-Up
It all starts with class set-up. The ideal format is to have the class organized in a circle, oval or rectangle where all students are facing one another. As the teacher, you should ideally sit amongst the class as a member of the circle (King Arthur style). See below:
**Helpful Tip** Our conversations with high school teachers of all stripes have lead us to believe ideal number of students for a meaningful discussion is between 6 and 16 participants.
Of course, this begs an obvious question:
What if I have 32 students in my class?
This is a challenging problem for many teachers with large class sizes. This is where the Fish-Bowl technique can be extremely useful.
For larger classes, we recommend that teachers split the class into two or more groups: the “inner circle” and the “outer circle”. The “inner circle” (Fish-Bowl) sits in the same circular formation as above and engages in meaningful conversation. The outer circle sits around the outside, listens, takes notes, and documents the main ideas discussed in the first part of the conversation. After a pre-determined amount of time (normally 10-15 minutes), the inner and outer circles switch and the roles are reversed. See below:
This approach gives all students within the inner circle the opportunity to participate. It also gives the students in the “outer circle” the opportunity to listen and think through their own thoughts and ideas in anticipation of the next round.
Let's get into the tool.
🏗️ Part 2 - Creating the Round.
First, make sure you’re inside of the right class and on the “RoundTables” page.
1. Click on the New Live RoundTable button and add a title.
2. Select (or create) up to 4 skills that you want to track for this discussion.
**Helpful Tip** By default Parlay has 4 point types: encourages others, uses evidence, demonstrates inquiry, builds on ideas. We think are really important skills to develop to help students become balanced and thoughtful participants in a discussion.
Don’t like these point types? No problem. You can create your own by pressing the "Create My Own" button.
3. Invite students.
(Note: if there are no students you can still publish the Live RoundTable - Parlay will give you a magic link to share with your students. They can click this button and it will give them access to both the class and the RoundTable.) See Below:
4. Create your first Round and add students.
What is a "Round"?
Rounds are a way to segment students during the class. You can segment by fishbowl section, Harkness Table question, debate round or any other grouping you see fit.
(Note: make sure your students have successfully joined the course and the RoundTable before adding them to the Round.)
**Helpful Tip** at any time during the discussion you can press the “Teacher Talk Time” button. This will pause the discussion, allowing you some time to ask the students a question, take a quick vote or switch to a new round.
👨🏫 Part 3 - Teacher Tracking Participants.
Now that class is set-up and all of the students are added to the Round, it’s time to get the conversation started! Tracking participants during the Live RoundTable is simple:
1. When a student speaks, click on their name.
Names are organized in alphabetical order. In the background, Parlay will register a “speaking turn” for this student.
2. After selecting a student, you can assign points for demonstrating specific skills.
3. Teachers can also leave notes for each student. Notes are private to you only.
**Helpful Tip** it is a good idea to set expectations by letting your students know which point types you intend to use for your Parlay discussions, and what those point types mean (using examples if possible). This way you can highlight great contributions and help everyone improve as the year progresses.
👩🏽🎓 Part 4 - Student Participation
Student engagement with Parlay during the discussion is optional, but highly encouraged! If your students have access to devices in the classroom (mobile phones or laptops) they can login to participate in the Live RoundTable.
Student participation during the discussion adds 4 unique abilities to the conversation.
In real time students can press the green “Agree” button or the red “Disagree’ button. Each vote will last for 6 seconds before it resets.
As the teacher, you will have real-time information about class sentiment.
**Helpful Tip** What do I do when I see this data?
If lots of people agree with the statement or idea that’s being proposed, it might be worth asking if anyone can build on this idea, support it with additional evidence, or see if anyone disagrees.
If lots of people disagree, it’s a great time to ask someone who disagrees to jump in and respectfully offer a different viewpoint.
If half the class agrees and the other half disagrees, then we’re in business! Here’s a contentious idea that’s worth exploring.
Sometimes students need a little prompting to join in on the conversation. The Nudge button allows you to quietly let that student know that you’d like them to join in on the conversation.
They will see a popup that looks like this on their screen.
3. Hand Raising
This is the opposite of the Nudge! This feature is a way for the student to let you know that they want a turn to speak.
(Note - students can only raise their hand if you have added them to the Round.)
When a student “raises” their hand their name will jump to the top of your list and be highlighted in blue.
**Helpful Tip** Some teachers like to request that students raise their hands before they speak. This is a great way to introduce control and cadence to the conversation. Some teachers like their students to drive the conversation and participate more organically - jumping in as they see fit. In this instance, the hand raise is very useful for those students that have great things to say, but maybe aren’t comfortable jumping in to the conversation.
4. Leaving Notes
At any point during the conversation students can submit a note.
(Note: At the end of the RoundTable, all of the student notes will be compiled and organized by Round. Everyone will have access to this page.)
**Helpful Tip** Here are a few ways you can encourage students to use notes:
- Quiet students that don’t yet feel comfortable speaking out loud can use the notes section to leave their thoughts for you and the class to see.
- Students on the “outer circle” of the Fishbowl can leave notes and feedback as the students in the “inner circle” participate in the discussion.
- Ask one or two students to be Scribes or Note Takers and use the note feature to jot down the main ideas in the conversation.
📈 Part 5 - Engagement Reports
The final stretch! It's time to close out the RoundTable and reveal the class statistics.
Press the "END" button when the RoundTable is over.
- Class Summary
First, you’ll see a graph called a Bubble Chart for class participation. Let’s take a look:
Each blue bubble represents a specific student, and the pink bubble represents the class average for the whole discussion. On the x-axis is a cumulative total of the number of times a particular student spoke during the RoundTable. On the y-axis is the total number of points that each student received during the RoundTable.
2. Class Notes
Next, we can scroll down to see the class notes - this is a summary of all the student submitted notes and feedback for each Round of the discussion.
3. Student Summaries
Next, we arrive at the student summary for each participant. Here you will see a tally of the total number of times each student spoke, the sum total of each type of point that you assigned during the RoundTable, and the notes that they personally contributed during the RoundTable,
You can also see a summary of the notes that you took for this student and even leave feedback directly for that student.
Note - Once the RoundTable has ended students will be able to see their own full summaries (not your private notes) and the class notes.
**Helpful Tip** At any point you can click on “Summary” for each student and Parlay will redirect you to a detailed summary of this students’ own personal engagement report where you can see additional engagement details and provide personalized feedback as necessary.
And that's a wrap! Now you're ready to become a Live RoundTable Superhero.
Remember, you can reach us any time - just click this bubble in the bottom corner:
Good luck, have fun and let us know your feedback and suggestions!
The Parlay Team :)