Circle of voices: Students form groups of about 5 members. Groups have 3 minutes of silent time to consider the topic. Each group member has 3 minutes of uninterrupted time to discuss the topic. Then, members may react to the comments that have been expressed. [Then each group reports to the whole class so we know what everybody talked about. You can also inform the rest of your classmates using different formats - a recording, a video, a handout.]
Critical debate: we could work out a couple of statements which showed different contending views, and then divide the class in as many groups as statements so that each group works in developing arguments in support of their idea as well as arguments to attack the other idea(s). Then groups have a spokesperson who will report to the whole class, and then we can have an open class discussion.
Jigsaw: We generate a short list of topics (about five). People select the topic they want to work on. Each group becomes like an "expert" on that topic, and will work on it and later share their knowledge with the whole group. Then we think about what did we learn from our "experts"?
Posted dialogues: Small groups summarize their conversations on large sheets of paper. Individual members of the class are then free to wander about the room reading the responses & adding comments.
Rotating stations: Locate each small group at a station where they are given 10 minutes to discuss a provocative issue and record their ideas on a large sheet of paper. When this time is up the groups move to new stations in the classroom where they continue their discussion, parting from the ideas they encounter from the previous group. Rotations continue every 10 minutes until each group has been at all of the positions and has had a chance to consider all of the other groups' comments.
Snowballing: People begin by thinking through the questions or issues as individuals in silence. Then they comment in pairs. Progressively, they create larger conversational groups by increasing the size of their group every few minutes until by the end of the activity everyone is reconvened in the large group.
Roundtable: We create questions having multiple answers. People get together in small groups, to write on a sheet of paper. A student writes down one response, says it aloud, and then passes the paper to the person on the left. Generating truth statements : Groups of about four students create objective statements on the issues we select for discussion, and then they share them with the class. [Why we couldn't say something because it was a value judgment and could not be expressed as an objective statement.]
Brainstorming: Students offer responses to a posed question or issue within a given amount of time. Somebody keeps track of all responses, preferably on a chalkboard or poster. No criticism or elaboration is allowed until the brainstorming period concludes. When brainstorming is over we can have a general discussion, or choose one of these formats to keep working on the ideas.