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Spider Web

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Also called the Harkness Method as demonstrated at the Exeter Academy, Spider Web discussion is a student-driven discussion strategy that includes whole-group evaluation and feedback via the spider web mapping process.


Once establishing expectations and norms for the discussion, the teacher steps back from an active role and charges students with discussing the assigned topic. As students discuss, the teacher maps the discussion (either visibly or privately) by writing names in a circle and tracing with lines from one student to the next. The final result of the map generally looks like a spider web (hence the name).

To successfully implement a spider web discussion, teachers should consider clear norms for students to observe such as inviting others to the discussion rather than dominating, making connections to other comments or ideas, and drawing evidence and insight from the text or materials in question.

A successful discussion should not involve more than 12-15 students, so for larger classes, consider splitting the class and either holding separate discussions or having half the class discuss while others observe, support in partners, or perform other individual tasks.


Hear Alexis Wiggins explain the concept at length in this video webinar

Learn more about the Harkness Method as a comprehensive approach from the Exeter Academy

Watch Alexis Wiggins demonstrate and explain Spider Webs here (explanation starts a 3:20):

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