Course Discussion: Prompts
You're the new advertising director of a national magazine. Your job is to evaluate the last issue of your magazine using the criteria presented in the course materials.
Actively engage learners by reaching outside the required textbook readings and standard course content. Bring in multiple perspectives, authentic resources, and real-world problems. Also think about multiple channels of communication. Students may listen to a speech, analyze a political cartoon, or examine government data.
Example. Students are asked to watch a panel discussion titled "Academic Freedom in an Age of Industry Collaboration: A Panel Discussion" (length 1:35:23) at University of California Television (UCTV10). They will then continue the panel discussion online taking on the role of a fictional faculty member or industry representative discussing the key issues.
Students might be asked to
- read and comprehend course content
- analyze and interpret course content
- use and apply course content
- design and create their own meaningful example
Design Effective, Efficient, and Appealing Discussion Prompts
Create a clear, concise prompt that will initiate discussion. The following discussion starters are simple examples to help you generate ideas.
Start with a(n)...
Action. Use verbs to bring a posting alive. Start with an event, disaster, or other activity. Then ask a question.
- The earth shakes causing death and devastation. Go to the Latest Earthquakes at the U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program and select a recent earthquake to examine. Compare the number of injuries and/or deaths to similar disasters. How are they alike and different? Speculate on why.
Announcement. Make an announcement or statement. Use this to grab interest.
- Use of performance enhancing drugs is skyrocketing! Childhood obesity is on the rise! Write a logic statement that relates to a national trend. Think of a logic statement that could be used as part of a non-profit advertising campaign. Go to Nonprofit Organization at Wikipedia for ideas. Be sure to identify the inverse, converse, and contrapositive in your statement.
For your required reply, create a truth table for the statement of a peer.
Challenge. Challenge participants with a bold statement that might cause controversy such as one side of an argument or an opinion. For instance, start with the perspective of a historical figure such as "patriots" or "loyalists"
- "Benedict Arnold was a hero. His mistake was choosing the wrong side." You may have heard of the saying "history is written by the winner." Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Give an example of a person from history that you feel has been misrepresented, used as a scapegoat, or wrongly vilified based on the outcome of an historical event. Provide an overview of the event, a short biographical summary, your position, and evidence supporting your perspective.
Choice. Present options or choices then ask a question such as Which do you like best? Why? Which of these songs would be the best theme music for our book? Why? Which illustration would you choose for the cover of this book? Why?
- Fables are short stories that provide a moral lesson for the reader. Unfortunately, many of the classic translates are difficult for today's young people to understand. Select an Aesop fable to retell for a modern audience. Use the eBook Aesop's Fables by Aesop from The Project Gutenberg. Provide the original fable. Post your retelling. Also, describe why you selected this fable over the others for this assignment.
Current Event. Present a news item or important local or global event. Consider a story that extends or contradicts something found in your course readings.
- We've been discussing adaptation, mutation, and genetic engineering. Browse science articles at Discover, National Geographic News, Nature, or Science Daily. Select an article that reflects a timely, real-world application of these ideas. Provide a short summary, link to the article, and statement about the association to course material.
Definition. Provide a word and/or definition. Or, just a word and ask for a definition, illustration or example. Be sure to cite the source. Ask a question that requires a definition.
- Let's create a visual glossary! Share an image that helps to visualize a concept from the Chapter 5 glossary. Share the word, definition, and image. Then explain how the image represents the word. For example, the sea star in the picture on the right will be able to regenerate its legs. Regeneration is the ability of a creature to rebuild or reconstruct lost body parts such as arms and legs.
- Market share is the percentage or proportion of the total available market or market segment that is being serviced by a company. Share a chart that reflects market share in a particular business sector.
Emotion or Feeling. Sleepy, dizzy, frantic, frustrated, or happy... how does it feel? What character makes you smile? Why? What's a cyberbully? How would it feel to be attacked by a cyberbully?
- Create a list of your "hot button" topics. What do you think triggers these reactions? You've taken a new job as a library media specialist in the mid-year. After a couple weeks on the job, a box arrives from Follett containing items purchased by the previous media specialist before leaving. As you open the box, some of the titles catch your eye. Do you think your personal stance would have an impact on the way you'd handle the materials? What about whether the building is an elementary, middle, or high school? Discuss your initial reaction. Select at least three and discuss why they drew your attention.: Gay and alternative lifestyles, Political viewpoints, Stem cell research, Evolution, Angels in our world, Graphic novels, Human sexuality, The Koran, Witchcraft and the Occult, Crossing Over. Then, discuss what you would do next.
Experience. Focus on personal or professional experiences and examples. Connect it to the discussion or topic. If possible, incorporate visuals such as photographs.
Share a personal experience or story about yourself. For example, check out the photo on the left that I look on the beach. As I walked toward the rocky beach, I noticed tiny bumps covered the rocks. I looked closer and discovered that these tiny creatures were alive.
Figurative Language. Design assignments that make use of simile (comparison such as or is), metaphor (comparison: this is like that), personification (giving a nonhuman, human qualities), or hyperbole (exaggeration).
- The washing machine always eats at least one sock. The bowl of ice cream looked like a volcano erupting with chocolate and carmel. Share your favorite example of figurative language.
Opinion. Start with an opinion and take a stand.
- "Students should wear uniforms to school." Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Give three reasons to support your opinion.
Quote. Start with a quote. The quote could be from a famous person, book, news article, or interview. Be sure to use quotation marks and credit the source. Use this quote as the basis for discussion. Use Wikiquote for ideas.
- "As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular." - Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist (1891). Read other quotes regarding war from Wikiquote. Refer to one of these quotes as you compare the War in Iraq with the war discussed in class.
- "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half." - attributed to John Wanamaker. There's some debate about the impact of advertising. How would you convince a company that a particular type of advertising (i.e., posters, television, radio, billboards) is effective?
Question. Focus on questions about a topic (i.e., main idea, connection to other learning), book or movie (i.e., character, plot, setting), or problem.
- After reading about survival in the wilderness, think about your own life and skills. Are you prepared to survive in the wilderness? Why or why not? Provide some specific examples.
- Are you at risk? What about your family members? What's the risk factor associated with particular diseases? Share the risk factors associated with a particular disease and share the potential of three people you know personally.
Riddle or Puzzle. Pose a riddle or puzzle, then provide a reading to help solve the problem. Or, get students involved with writing their own riddles or creating puzzles.
- Let's explore the relationships within each biome. Select a biome and create a visual showing elements of the biome. Create another visual with arrows showing the relationships.
Scenario. Ask readers to imagine a situation. Consider starting with dialog or conversation.
- You've been asked to select the artwork for a special exhibit on the topic of agriculture and art. What works of at would you include and why?
Statistic. How many or how much? Present a shocking statistic or one that people might question. Consider presenting this information in the form of a chart or graphic. Ask students to analyze this data.
- "In 2006, $155 billion dollars was spent on advertising in the United States." Select some sector of advertising and determine how much was spent.
Surprise. Begin with a shocking or amazing piece of information.
- You're not going to do any writing for this assignment. Instead, you're going to share your idea in the form of a .... photograph, question, chart, etc.
- Who, What, When, Where, Why, or How. Start with a "W" or "H" related to a specific character, problem, or event.
Design a clear, concise prompt to jumpstart your discussion.
Create three possible prompts for a single discussion topic.
Share these ideas with a classmate. Is one more effective or engaging than the others? Or, could all three be used providing students with a choice?