Building Community Student-Driven Conversations

Students can explore sensitivity about their experiences in conversation groups and establish trust in one another. This school year, many teachers will confront the difficulty of forming virtual relationships with new pupils. Without the companionship and spontaneity of in-person classroom interactions, how can they develop a feeling of community? Making more time for personally engaging, nonacademic, youth-driven dialogues is one strategy.

This Teenage Life, a discussion and podcasting programme co-created with young people, has taken the shape of This Teenage Life, a dialogue and podcasting programme where students talk about problems that are important to them, record them, and make a podcast. These discussions may be utilised as a springboard for storytelling initiatives and to foster trust and a feeling of community. Build a foundation for effective conversation groups Trust, enabling talks to develop naturally, promoting involvement, and exercising reflection are all important factors to consider.



Develop rules for how your group communicates and listens to one another with your group. For instance, a group may declare that members should only discuss what they are comfortable sharing and not share the tales of other students. My classmates and I came up with a twist on the Hippocratic Oath: “Do no harm, and never force someone or a group to talk about something they don’t want to talk about.” Reflect on the norms in post-dialogue thoughts after the conversations. Were they followed by the group? What might they have done differently? If someone is repeatedly breaking the rules and weakening trust, have a one-on-one chat with them about how they are doing it. The dynamics of the group are influenced by activities.

Begin the conversational practise with themes that are lighthearted, amusing, and simple. Consider focus areas that will encourage anecdotal sharing. Conversations on what kids miss about childhood, amusing superstitions, or bizarre, recurring dreams, for example, might allow them to relate their experiences without feeling exposed.

These issues are less strongly linked to young people’s basic values and identities, thus discussions about them can build trust. As the group’s trust grows, they may discuss more serious issues that relate to who they are, what they care about, and who they aspire to be. Follow the pupils’ lead and wait until they suggest more difficult topics. My students’ discussions regarding queerness and identity, for example, When students felt secure in their processing of the concerns, they offered the themes for debate, Black Lives Matter became important.


Students in conventional discussion groups are given prompts and urged to stick to a single topic chosen by the teacher. The group can begin by establishing a list of themes in order to conduct more flexible, decentralised, student-led dialogues regarding significant, nonacademic issues. As examples, give them some prompts and then let them riff. In a written document, keep track of their ideas. Encourage kids to discuss topics that allow them to get to know one another informally, such as around a dinner table with friends or around a campfire. Students might, for example, talk about occasions when  they’ve gotten into trouble or things they’ve thought to be true tales about persons they look up to and why, or instances they’ve been terrified as a youngster but no longer believe.

Successful themes will elicit a flurry of activity from young people who are eager to share and listen. Be mindful that unusual themes might occasionally work out nicely. In our group, for example, one kid proposed the theme of “snacks and breakfast.” While it may appear to be a strange topic at first, the kids had a lot to say about what they preferred to eat, make, and when and why they ate different snacks. They laughed and learnt about one other despite the fact that it was not a profound chat. Follow-up questions or dives into more specialised subtopics can lead to genuine tangentsb to a more detailed discussion “Have you ever considered that your parents are humans too?” one kid casually offered during a talk about parenting and climate change, for example. The digression resulted in meaningful conversation and the episode “Parents Are People Too.” Allow plenty of time for tangents, as they might take the discourse in unexpected directions. If a topic generates minutes of quiet, go over your list of topics and propose something different, or ask the group if there’s anything else they’d want to talk about. If a random digression deviates too far from the topic of an intelligent, enjoyable conversation, ask a follow-up question to get the conversation back on track.


Unlike in the classroom, where students are frequently assessed on participation, conversation sessions work best when they are not graded, allowing students to speak freely in a secure environment. Adults must acknowledge that they are not the major drivers in these student-led discussions so that they do not dominate the topic. Adults may offer greater room for young people to surface their own thoughts and express their stories by choosing to listen. Breakout rooms can allow adults to roam between groups in a remote learning context, allowing young people a place for their own self-directed discourse.

Active listening and follow-up questions are critical in these conversations to keep the topic going. Students are welcome to participate as well in a variety of nonverbal ways Students may, for example, produce art or media relating to the topic during or after a conversation, as seen by the web-art and student-created activities in our conversation and activity guides.


As conversation subjects, students may bring up delicate concerns they are dealing with.

After a debate like this, offer any resources that you think would be beneficial. For example, following a discussion about anxiety, I gave the group a self-care tool kit.

Reflect on what worked, what didn’t work, how the group could improve, and how individuals felt during the talk in the last few minutes of each conversation. Keep track of the input and bring it up again at the start of the following meeting.


Jack Marque

Digital Marketer with over 15 years of experience. Certified Digital Marketer and Educator by Google, HubSpot, and many other companies. An ex-employee @uber and @zomato

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