Nested Conversations

This activity is intended for teachers to use after introducing a text, document, or presentation. The purpose of the activity is for students in small groups to explore the concept(s) introduced in the text, document, or presentation. There is a facilitator at each of the three discussion tables who listens to the students and notes the big ideas that emerge from the conversation. The facilitator also takes part in the discussion. Following the discussions, the teacher guides a whole-class debriefing session. Developed by Raquel Munarriz Diaz adapted from the World Café and Wagon Wheel Protocols


  1. The teacher divides students into three groups “nests” and assigns a table “host” for each table.

  2. Teacher assigns each table host one of the three questions.

  3. Each group participates in three rounds (one round per question). A round consists of:

  4. The table hosts introduce the question.

  5. The members in the nest discuss the question provided by the table host. Table host can participant in the discussion(s).

  6. Table hosts facilitate the discussion and take notes on the big ideas discussed by the group.

  7. At the end of the round, the group members remain together and rotate to the next table to discuss a new question.

  8. At the end of the round, the table hosts remain at the table and another group seats with the host and begins a new conversation based on the question assigned to the table.

  9. Whole Group Debrief

  10. After all rounds have been completed, each table host reports on what was captured from the discussions.

  11.  The teacher leads a discussion about patterns that can be discerned from the nested conversations.

Helpful Tips

  1. For maximum student engagement, the teacher should consider pausing the discussion every 20-30 minutes to give students time to reflect and/or time to consider additional input. Students might reflect by jotting notes in a graphic organizer, writing questions of interest, etc. Additional input could be provided by giving access to an image, a news headline, a quote from a text, or by giving students time to consult texts/resources they have previously encountered.

  2. Thoroughly model the structure of the activity to ensure that it unfolds smoothly.

  3. Ensure that students have sufficient practice with the vocabulary associated with the topic/theme of the text before they participate in the nested conversations.


  1. The text, document, or presentation can be at different proficiency levels depending on the students. The teacher can also generate possible questions about the text with the class prior to the nested conversations.


  1. Authentic text, document, or presentation

  2. Three open-ended questions pertaining to the text, document, or presentation