Engaging teens in discussion 2

What follows below is a reposting of an article from 2008 but with a Jolly Good reason!
Jacob and Brian kicked this off with a great posting on ‘how to get teens talking’ and listing ideas and techniques that work to engender conversation and discussion. I added some more and it proved, I’m told, quite useful!
So I want to flag up the new 10 that Brian and Jacob have added, which you’ll find here. Then re-post the original post and links meaning that there are around 30 creative, tested and useful ideas in one place.
teenchatoutsidegroup.jpgJacob and Brian over at Re-thinking Youth Ministry have posted a list of 10 ways they use to enable discussion with teenagers. They are:
1) The Continuum
2) Hypotheticals
3) Graffiti wall
4) Fishbowl
5) Vote
7) Images
8) Talk Partners
9) Role Play
10) Talk Tokens

If you want the fuller explantations then click through to their post.
I use lots of the above strategies but thought I’d try and throw some additional thoughts, ideas and suggestions into the mix!
11) Build Trust: Remember you can’t instantly have deep discussion. Use a ‘Throw and Tell Ball‘ or the like, start with discussions that are low key and non threatening but demonstrate you are interested and listening. Know if you are working with teens there will be off-the-wall mad questions … and how you handle these is a test of whether discussion really is safe or not. (see also the Bosworth Googly)
12) Stick it notes: I’m a big fan of stick-it-notes and find that teenagers are very happy to scribble individually or in groups on stick it notes. The notes mean that young people who don’t like speaking out in a group feel more comfortable and/or there can be a degree of anonymity. You can also divide up a response really easily by say people sticking their responses/questions/thoughts to either the ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ sides of something.
13) The neutralised Question: How might ‘someone in your class’ at school or ‘someone in church’ answer that.
14) Making Stuff: Asking for a creative response, give out pipe-cleaners or plasticine and invite teens to make something that represents how they feel about the given issue!
15) Their questions driving the discussion: Build trust, introduce the topic and ask them to write the questions that will form the discussion (let them do this anonymously …. oh and you may want to encourage them to write ‘open’ questions not ‘closed’)
16) Overturn Fear of getting it wrong: You have to work hard at creating the idea that discussion is cool, that you are not using questions to arrive at the ‘right’ answer. That the discussion is genuinely important in and of itself.
17) You don’t have all the answers: When teens know that you don’t have all the answers and there are questions you are wrestling with it can be really freeing
18) Environment: Think about the environment in which you are discussing. If it feels like school they’ll respond acordingly. Work hard too at taking out the power dynamics (eg not sitting higher than the group, being part of the group not removed from it etc)
19). The debate: Randomly divide the teenagers up into, for example, ‘support’ and ‘Oppose’ groups on a particular issue. They have to argue their position regardless of their personal conviction on the issue. This can be quite liberating and lead to a great discussion of the issue without anyone feeling vulnerable about their own position or thoughts.
Please add your thoughts/ideas via the comments!

2 Replies to “Engaging teens in discussion 2”

  1. Thanks for these links and bringing them all together. It’s a really useful resource, with some fresh ideas that I look forward to trying.
    Cheers, Martin

  2. Ian, thanks for linking this and thanks again for partnering in this listing the last time around! Love your blog. Brian

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