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This activity requires 60-90 minutes.
Fishbowl activities force participants to listen actively to the experiences and perspectives of a specific group of people. A student fishbowl gives pre-service and in-service educators an opportunity to hear the experiences, ideas, and feedback of current students while giving the students an opportunity to be active in the dialogue on educational equity.
The only major resources needed for this activity are current K-12 students. My exerpience has been that eight or ten students comprise an optimum fishbowl group. If your class or workshop focuses on a particular educational level (i.e., early childhood, secondary, etc.), you should try to find students at that level to participate. A useful strategy for finding fishbowl participants is to tap into local schools.
To prepare for the actual fishbowl dialogue, ask the fishbowl students to sit in a circle in the middle of the room. Your class or workshop participants, or the "observers," should sit in a larger circle around the fishbowl students.
The following steps will set the ground rules, then initiate and process the dialogue for the student fishbowl activity:
A few simple strategies will help you facilitate this activity smoothly. First, remember that this activity is as much about reminding teachers that students are their most important resources as it is about teaching. As mentioned above, it is thus crucial that observers show maximum respect to the fishbowl students by following the silence ground rule. It may take some effort to enforce this ground rule, as many teachers are not fully ready to play the role of learner from people who may be their own students. Consider writing something on the chalkboard or newsprint pad such as "We are all teachers. We are all learners."
Student fishbowl discussions usually are most successful when they are informal. Remember that the fishbowl students have not had an opportunity to develop comfort with the participants of your class or workshop.
A noticeable level of tension often is evident in the room as teachers learn about their own possible areas for improvement from students and students try to respectfully critique the people who they have been taught to trust and respect. A variety of strategies can be used to ease the tension, ranging from starting with a fun icebreaker to serving snacks.
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