The Shy, The Superstar, and the SPIDER WEB

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While many students will find a SPIDER WEB discussion to be an enjoyable break from the traditional classroom structure, some students may have trouble navigating the new paradigm. In her book The Best Class You Never Taught: How SPIDER WEB Discussion Can Turn Students Into Learning Leaders, Alexis Wiggins identifies two types of students who may have difficulty adjusting to the new classroom dynamic: students how are shy and students who are superstars. Shy students, while they may have great insight to share, are often more comfortable with their thoughts and will avoid participating in discussion. Superstars often have the urge to share every thought and do their best to dominate discussion. So how do classroom teachers help students who are shy and students who are superstars become part of the larger, collaborative discussion? Wiggins suggests the following (pp. 70-91):

  1. Openly address the issue of the difficulties faced by both the shy and superstar students. Keep reminding everyone of the goal: to have a deep, interesting discussion as a team.
  2. Give all students a few minutes to quietly reflect on the topic and write things down prior to discussion. This will help all students, whether shy or superstar, focus their thinking and provide them with some discussion points.
  3. Provide quality feedback based upon the rubric. The rubric is there to help students learn what is important in a collaborative team. Let all students know how they are doing and provide ways to improve.
  4. Keep trying. Patience, persistence, and self-assessment will help develop student skills and yield a balanced discussion.

As you implement SPIDER WEB discussion in your classroom, be aware of those students who might find the non-traditional structure to be uncomfortable and provide supports necessary to improve participation. Your students will appreciate your efforts, and you will all learn much about one another in the process!

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