This is a powerful and fun method to build student engagement, excitement, and empowerment. Your investment of time will be well rewarded when students ask for more.

8 steps

1.     Students suggest topic – Guide them and build engagement, interest

2.     Students research topic and make a post online #fishbowl

3.     Students respond to posts – write comments/questions on three classmates’ posts

4.     Students prepare questions and statements

5.     Students discuss – rubric – teacher, peer, and self

6.     Students write – rubric – teacher, peer, and self

7.     Students engage/create - rubric – teacher, peer, and self



Day One - in class

1) List three topics you’d like to learn more about and discuss in class.

These should be political or social issues that are currently being debated by your fellow citizens that you find interesting, engaging, and important. For example, we could learn about and discuss the death penalty, the legalization of marijuana, or same sex marriage. Put a list of examples on board. Discuss the pros and cons of each topic and then vote as a class (teacher has 4 votes). Majority rules. Here's the rules I give my students on the first day of the fishbowl.

2) Work by yourself to research our topic and make a substantive, illuminating, data-rich, fact-filled post to our class website or twitter feed #fishbowl. Your post does not need to be your work or reflect your opinion. It should be factual and informative and could come in the form of a chart, graph, map, cartoon, editorial, or report. I’ll give you a list of appropriate sources for your research. If you find anything outside of my sources, please seek permission before using them. You will be evaluated on your post.

*If your class does not have access to the internet, students may cut out graphs, charts, or articles to physically post on a class bulletin board.

Day Two – outside of class

3) Read through your colleagues' posts. Each student should respond with a thoughtful and respectful question to at least three of your classmates’ posts.

*Students may write comments below each post on the bulletin board.

Day Three – in class

4) Come to class with a list of points to make and questions you’d like to ask.

During the fishbowl, class will be arranged in two circles; a small circle of four (inside) and a large circle of the rest of the class (outside). If you are inside the fishbowl you may talk, ask, discuss. If you are outside the fishbowl you may NOT talk at all. Outsiders may, however, tweet #fishbowl any questions or comments. These tweets may be projected on classroom overhead screen.

*Classrooms without internet may employ a student runner who picks up questions and comments from students (they raise their hands silently) and writes them on chalk/whiteboard.

5) Make a thoughtful comment or raise an insightful question in our classroom fishbowl. I will take notes on our class discussion and will evaluate your level/quality of participation. I will only ask questions if we run into silence or inappropriate comments. You will only be allowed to stay in class if you are quiet when appropriate (outside) and vocal when appropriate (inside). If you are ejected from class, you will receive a zero for your participation grade. Everyone must speak at least once in the fishbowl. A student may only return to the middle and speak again after each student has participated in the fishbowl. You must tag a student to switch places with them on the inside of the fishbowl. You may only tag out a student who has already spoken.

*Optionally, every student could lose a letter grade for each student who does not participate in the fishbowl.

Day Four – in class

6) Write a post-debate Editorial about the topic. Here's how you write an Editorial and here's the rubric I will use to evaluate your editorial. Try to persuade me of your position. Use at least three sources from the fishbowl in crafting your editorial. These are typically due the day after the fishbowl. Turn in your editorial and allow students to share editorial aloud in groups or whole class. Discuss.

Day Five and Six – in class

7) Engage/create. Take action about the topic. Create, join, persuade, do: write a letter to editor, start a petition on, create a campus teach-in, start a facebook page, write a poem, submit a letter to the editor, make posters to put up around campus, pen a short story, post a video, start a tumblr, make visual art, write a manifesto, chalk the campus, write your congressperson or the president, write an article for your school newspaper, join or start an interest group, spread the word, hold a rally or protest, lobby the legislature. Share your plans and the result of your work in class. You will be evaluated on creativity, persuasion, effectiveness. This can be done alone or in small teams. Students will work together in class on day five and report on their results on the sixth day (which may take place a week or more after the fishbowl so that students have time for their project to launch.)