A cooperative learning structure useful for brainstorming, reviewing, predicting, or practicing a skill, uses a single sheet of paper and pen for each cooperative learning group. Students in the group respond in turn to a question or problem by stating their ideas aloud as they write them on the paper. It is important that the ideas be vocalized for several reasons: (a) silence in a setting like this is boring, rather than golden; (b) other team members need to be reflecting on the proffered thoughts; (c) variety results because teammates learn immediately that someone has come up with an idea they know now not to repeat; and (d) hearing the responses said aloud means that students do not have to waste valuable brainstorming time by reading the previous ideas on the page.

Team members are encouraged not to skip turns, but if their thoughts are at a standstill, they are allowed to say "Pass" rather than to turn the brainstorm into a “brain drizzle.” Thus, there is almost universal participation in Roundtable.

Roundtable is most effective when used in a carefully sequenced series of activities. The brainstorming can reinforce ideas from the readings or can be used to set the stage for upcoming discussions. Students, for example, could identify the characteristics of an effective leader or the attributes of terrorism before these topics are formally introduced. Comparing a student-generated list with those of the "experts," creates interest. Many creative uses can be made of the ideas generated, depending on their nature.

In Roundtable, the multiple answers encourage creativity and deeper thinking. This activity builds positive interdependence among team members because of the shared writing surface, but more importantly, it builds team cohesion and reinforces the power of teamwork because students see in action the value of multiple viewpoints and ideas.

More Roundtable information? (includes pictures and a synopsis)