Suggested “Rules” for Dialogic Discussions

Possible “rules” for discussion: 

(Abridged from Big Ideas for Little Kids: Teaching Philosophy Through Children’s Literature, by Thomas Wartenberg, 2014. I highly recommend this book.)


  • Think about the question and how to answer it
  • Answer as clearly as you can
  • Provide reasons for your answer (Why do you think that?)


  • Listen patiently with your hands down
  • Look at the speaker
  • Try to understand what the speaker means
  • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand (Can you explain what you mean by …)
  • Decide if you agree or disagree with the speaker’s answer
  • Try to think of an example that doesn’t fit the answer

Facilitator’s role in the discussion:

  • Avoid providing your answer to the questions
  • Encourage the speaker and listeners in their roles
  • Remind the students that disagreements are an important part of discussions
  • Provide prompts such as “I agree with {name} because …” (Pennell, 2014)
  • When there is agreement, ask “why?” to further the conversation
  • Praise the process. Thinking is the goal rather than finding the answer (Pennell, 2014)
  • Make it clear the conversation doesn’t have to end in agreement or a “right” answer
  • No winners or losers
  • Remind listeners to look at the speaker and the speaker to look at the listener to whom they are responding

Go back to Guidance page

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