World Café – Unraveling the American Dream

By Andrea Caruso, 11th grade English Teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)


Grade levels: K-12

Types of activities:

Co-Op Learning, Small Group


World Cafe Group Leader Handout, Directions (slide, or written on the board), Extended Response Handout, Extended Response Rubric, CCEI paragraph handout

Time requirement:

  • Intro: 10 min.
  • Activity: 20 min.
  • Debrief: 40 min.
  • Extended Writing: Variable


The World Café discussion format works well as an introduction to a thematic unit. The questions are open-ended, tied to the enduring understandings and the unit readings that students will engage with during the unit, and require them to think critically before constructing their own claim. Moreover, the discussion format asks students to actively listen to their classmates and focus on the topic at hand. The sample lesson provided in the linked handouts is the start of an 11th-grade unit about the American Dream. The unit is divided into three sections: The Dream of Equality, The Dream of Prosperity, and The Dream of Glory. Each of the questions asked in this introductory activity is linked to the essential questions that guide each section of the unit.

Instructional Procedures:

Teacher Preparation

  • Teacher should create five open-ended, philosophical questions tied to the new unit of study.
  • Teacher should create the group leader handouts (5 in total), the extended response handouts, the extended response rubric, and any other writing handouts needed.
  • Before students arrive, teacher should arrange the classroom desks in five circles, with enough space for students to move around between the circles once the activity has begun. Each circle should have five to six desks, depending on class enrollment, and each circle represents a group.

Teacher-Led Instruction

  • Once students arrive, direct the students to sit in any circle they choose. Teacher may also wish to have students place their backpacks against the walls of the classroom; they won’t be needing them and have the potential to slow them down once the activity has started.
  • Once students are settled, teacher will review the activity and give these directions (it is helpful to have these projected on a slide or written on the board):
    • Each group will have one table leader. This leader is responsible for facilitating the discussion and recording participants comments during each round. The table leaders will NOT move around the room once a round is completed; they will stay in their seats while the remainder of the class moves. The discussion question will be different in each group.
    • When the teacher calls for the activity to begin, the table leader will read the discussion question to the group and the conversation will begin.The conversation is timed for 3 minutes (note: teacher may change the time to fit the needs of the class), so make sure each voice is heard and recorded!
    • Once three minutes have elapsed, the remainder of the class will have 45 seconds to move to another group. Important note: students ARE NOT allowed to move around in pairs or groups. They will want to move from group to group with their friends – do not let them! One of the expected outcomes of this activity is to have students hear all voices in the classroom and this is negated if they follow one another around the room.
    • The activity will repeat until each student has visited all 5 groups.


  • Before beginning, teacher should review that all students understand the activity. Once teacher is assured everyone’s on board, set a timer for 3 minutes and begin!
  • While students are discussing, teacher should be walking around, monitoring for participation, and listening to student responses. Teacher should not interfere with the discussions; let the students take ownership over the direction their conversation takes!

Teacher-Led Debrief

  • Once the students have moved around to all five groups, it is time to debrief both the activity format and the discussion questions.
  • Suggested questions regarding the format of the activity include:
    • What did you think of the format of the World Café discussion? What was good about it? Was there anything you wish was different?
    • Why do you think we did this activity using the World Café format? How is it different from our usual class discussions?
  • Once students have shared their views on the format of the World Café, the teacher should lead the class in a debrief of the questions the students answered in each group. Begin by asking the table leader for Question 1 to summarize the responses from the class, asking them to note commonalities or differences amongst opinions. Once this is shared, open the conversation to the whole class, allowing students to voice their individual opinions and engage in dialogue about the topic. Encourage students to use discussion protocols to bring everyone’s voice into the debrief. Once the teacher feels the conversation is complete, move on to the next question until all are addressed.

Beyond the Activity

  • Once the debrief is concluded, distribute and review the extended response writing assignment handout and rubric. Students can complete this for homework or as an in-class writing activity.

Expected Impact


  • ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1 – Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2 – Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
  • ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1 – Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4 – Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10 – Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3 – Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
  • ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 – Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1.c – Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.

Student Learning Outcomes (SLO’s)

  • Students will be able to:
    • Create and communicate a viable claim in response to an essential, philosophical question.
    • Defend their claim using a evidence from their experience, observations, and readings.
    • Initiate and participate in a small-group collaborative discussion centered around an essential question.
    • Compose a short argumentative extended response essay in CCEI format, demonstrating a command of standard English conventions.

Adopt & Adapt

The following link contains handouts, rubrics, and assignment sheets for the World Cafe activity:

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