Unlike a debate, a round-table discussion is a platform for a broad spectrum of opinion, which can be voiced and heard and thus clarify a situation, or help to find solutions to a problem. It is a blessing because everyone has a chance to participate in conversation, and, at the same time, it can be a curse for the very same reason: everyone has a chance to participate in conversation.
Stage1: Prepare a Lead-In
Study some of the recent cases connected with the topic. Choose the one you would like to use in the lead-in as an introduction into the matter. The lead-in is down to the moderator, but the discussion stage is to be done as a group. Google Docs will come in handy when you need to share your findings with the other team members.
Each student is to contribute a case (find an article and bring it in class) to illustrate the topic of the round-table discussion. Discuss your findings in class.
Stage 2: Choose useful vocabulary
While preparing for the round table, you will be reading articles on the subject and watching related videos. Whenever you come across a word or a collocation related to the topic (within the topic of Political Correctness these could be words and phrases like catcalling, blackface, blacklist vs deny list,etc.), write it down in your useful vocabulary list. This is best done at Google Docs, where you group all of your findings in a table, as shown in the example below.
In order to have a clear understanding of when and how these new words and phrases can be used, please, consult the English language corpora online, following the links below. (A corpus is a compilation of authentic written and spoken language, which enables learners to trace patterns of grammar and vocabulary usage)
Stage 3: Define perspectives for the discussion
At this stage, students do not assume roles yet, they rather speculate on the variety of opinions that could be voiced on the subject and do Internet and other media research.
It is better if the number of perspectives equals the number of attendees, which does not exclude the possibility of some of the speakers having points of convergence.
Report on your progress in class.
Stage 4: Assume roles and prepare for the role-play
Choose a public figure whose views you would like to present and prepare a set of arguments to support your stance. This task requires both analytical and critical thinking skills.
Prepare for your role with the help of the table below and upload the results to Google Docs.
Stage 5: Role-play a round-table discussion in class.
- Prepare thoroughly, study the positions of the speakers and think over the questions you are going to ask.
- Bear in mind the speakers’ roles and direct your questions to them accordingly, so that they would be within the scope of a particular speaker. Think on your feet and be ready to improvise according to what is happening in the room.
- Direct the discussion and make sure it is lively. Ask questions in order to reveal clashes of ideas. You can choose to listen to opposing positions one right after the other.
- Be on top of it all: control the discussion, allow everyone to have a say. Try to find the right balance between lively and orderly.
- Take your role for granted — it’s not a piece of cake.
- Ask the participants randomly, without considering the speakers’ roles or blindly follow the plan you have prepared beforehand.
- Sit vacantly while the speakers present their opinions.
- Let the discussion turn into a mess when/if the tempers are rising.
- Prepare several arguments to substantiate your position. Get hold of facts, figures, or examplesto go with each argument.
- Speak freely (better forget a word than read out from your notes).
- Be active listeners. Listen carefully to the other attendees and be ready to interact with them when the moment is appropriate.
- Speak concisely and to the point.
- React to what the others are saying — support the ideas you feel for and refute the ones you don’t share. BUT Be polite!
- Beat about the bush or repeat the same argument over and over again.
- Cling to your notes.
- Revise what you have prepared while other opinions are voiced.
- Shower everything you’ve learned on the topic down on the others.
- Be afraid to show your emotions.
DO think about useful vocabulary in advance: better make up two glossaries, one based on the topic of the discussion, the other focusing on communicative patterns (agreeing, disagreeing, giving opinion and asking for opinion).