See Touchstones In Action
All Touchstones programs enable participants to be both responsive leaders and active collaborators. Not only are these abilities prerequisites for genuinely exploratory and creative discussions, they are also essential skills in other academic and non-academic environments and activities.
This short video shows the component activities that comprise all Touchstones lessons and programs. Starting with an evaluation of the students’ work in the previous class and moving through to the full class discussion, one sees how each activity builds on each other. The video also highlights the role of the teacher as a model for the group. The teacher demonstrates curiosity, open-mindedness, respect for all, and a willingness to examine assumptions and presuppositions in the presence of new ideas and information.
Touchstones discussion texts are strategically chosen to support the students’ work in participation, cooperation, active listening, and collaborative leadership. This structure builds new behaviors in engagement and thinking over time and allows the group to develop through collective effort. All Touchstones curricula and programs follow a similar progression, starting with Lesson 1 and continuing sequentially through the Teacher’s or Leader’s Guides.
Sequencing in a Touchstones Lesson:
- The Touchstones text is read aloud by teacher as students read along in their books.
- Students reflect on the text and complete individual work on their worksheets.
- Small group work provides students with the chance to express themselves and start exploring their thinking and that of their peers.
- A full-class discussion folds in small group work and engages students in open-ended thinking.
- Class reflection on behavior and engagement provides opportunity for students themselves to identify issues and strategize solutions for the next class.
Touchstones programs are designed for 45-minute class periods once a week throughout the academic year. This regular practice in essential skill development complements other forms of instruction the students receive during the week and brings students with diverse talents and experience together to learn from and teach each other.
Most Touchstones programs require no advanced preparation from participants, ensuring that all students enter the discussion on equal footing.
Touchstones texts are the starting point for the discussion. Each text offers a unique perspective worthy of close examination, in conjunction with the participants’ own experiences and ideas on the topic or topics raised in the text. Through the comparing and contrasting and analysis of the ideas expressed in the discussion and the discussion process itself, the class deepens and broadens its thinking and understanding together. More likely than not, more questions will be raised than will be answered—spurring on the types of thinking and inquisitiveness that are hallmarks of life-long learners.