Strategy Guide

Introducing New Content with Seed Discussions

5 - 12
Strategy Guide Series
Reading in the Content Areas

About this Strategy Guide

In this strategy guide, you'll learn how to elicit ideas and conversation about new concepts or content by effectively holding a Seed Discussion in your classroom.


Research Basis

Often times, introducing new content or new concepts can be overwhelming for students and teachers alike.  Through the use of Seed Discussions, students are able to preview the new content or concepts for things that they can relate to.  They seek out information that looks familiar to them, things they don’t quite understand, and things that look interesting to them, including new vocabulary.  Seed Discussions allow students to identify and develop topics important to their own thinking.

After previewing the new content or concepts and filling out their Seed Discussion Organizer, students are able to have a discussion with their peers about new information coming their way and exiting information that they already hold.  According to Project CRISS, effective “seeds” grow into dynamic discussions, driving the interest in new content and reaffirming their existing knowledge so that the “new” content doesn’t seem so intimidating.


Strategy in Practice

  • Pick a new piece of content or a new concept that you will be introducing to your students.  This may be a new unit in your science textbook, a new chapter in a novel, or a magazine article on a current event, among other things.
  • Put up four pieces of chart paper around the classroom; one each with the given prompts on the Seed Discussion Organizer.  Students will use these pieces of chart paper to record their responses after they fill out their individual Seed Discussion Organizer.
  • Give each student access to the new content, as well as a copy of the Seed Discussion Organizer.  Discuss with students the four categories that make up the Seed Discussion Organizer and give them examples of things that they might write in each of the areas as they go through the new content.  You may wish to model this process and do a think-aloud for your students on a whole-class Seed Discussion Organizer, projected where the students can see it and give feedback.
  • After students fully understand what is expected of them as they explore the new content, allow them about 10-15 minutes to peruse the new content and fill out their Seed Discussion Organizer with questions and thoughts that they have, specific to each area of the organizer.
  • Once all students have completed the different areas of the organizer (aim for at least three questions/thoughts per box), allow them to discuss their findings with a partner or group.
  • Ask each group to decide on their top three responses for each box.  Ask one member of each group to be the recorder and write the three responses on the appropriate piece of chart paper for each prompt.  To save time, you may ask each student in the group to each choose one prompt and be the recorder on the chart paper for that specific prompt.
  • Once all groups have recorded their top three group responses on the chart paper, hold a class discussion about the class’ findings.  Discuss each prompt and the students’ findings one at a time, and allow for other students to provide additional prior knowledge they may have.
  • Talk about the process that students just completed.  Ask students questions such as :
    • How did you feel after completing your Seed Discussion Organizer and discussing it with your group?
    • How might your Seed Discussion Organizer and our class conversations help you to become a better reader and thinker?
    • How does this strategy help you become actively engaged in the new concept we are studying?
  • Leave the chart paper up in a visible area for students to refer to often during the study of the new content or concept.  You may wish to allow students to add to the information as they learn new things and/or answer questions that students had when originally exploring the new content.
  • To summarize the new concept or content at the end of the study, revisit the chart paper and individual Seed Discussion Organizer at the end of the unit, chapter, etc. to ensure that all questions were answered and the content was thoroughly understood.  Allow time for students to go back and look for information if it is not readily accessible by memory.


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