Newsela 101: Social Function Discussion

I actually stole this idea from my brother who works as a CPA. What do a CPA and education have to do with one another??? Well, my brother and I were talking one-day about skills he believed were lacking in most of the applicants that came through the accounting firm where he works. The skill he kept coming back to was the inability to engage in a conversation. One of the many jobs at his firm, like many businesses out there, requires the employee to engage with clients and collaborate with co-workers. Being able to have unprompted conversations is a key factor in the hiring process. As a result of this, his firm is now including as part of the interview process a time when they invite the applicants to a social function and engage them in casual conversation. The goal of this is to see how applicants handle interacting with others and if they can engage in unprompted conversation. Will they sit there idly and not engage? Or are they interacting and starting conversations? All of these interactions are noted and considered as part of the interview process.

Out of this conversation, Social Function Discussion was hatched. I realized I needed to provide my students with an unstructured discussion atmosphere which challenged them to seek out conversations on their own because one day they might find themselves in an interview like the one I described above. Below is the process for how the discussion works in my high school classroom.


Social Function Discussion, a.k.a. Happy Hour Discussion is an open ended discussion that students have after they’ve finished reading an article. The goal of this activity is for students to get up, move around, and discuss the article they read with other people around the room. Depending on what you, as the teachers, are trying to get out of the activity, the students can either read the same article, different articles from the same text set, or they can read an independently selected article. 

After they’re finished reading students are given a  “Networking” worksheet. A “Networking” worksheet is a simple handout that requires students to talk with other students and record information based on their discussions. The goal of this activity is to practice oral communication skills and find connections that can be made between the articles students have read. After students have mingled and talked with their peers, it’s great to tie the activity together with an all-class conversation about connections students made with their peers and what they read.  An example “Networking” worksheet can be found here.

Tips and Suggestions:

  • Require students to have a minimum number of discussions with their peers. Usually, a minimum of 3 to 4 works best.  That way they have to go outside of their immediate friend circles to have discussions.
  • This activity works great with a current events, content discussions, and pairing Newsela articles with books.
  • The first time I do this activity in class, each round I have a different question they must talk about and also a certain criteria for who they have to meet with. For example, “This round you have to find someone with the same shoe size and talk about connections from the article to the book.” Over time, I try to limit how many different discussion questions I give to the students because I eventually want them to be the ones engaging with the topic without prompting.


Newsela 101: Social Function Discussion
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