Café Conversation


Café Conversation is a strategy that engages participants in dialogue by responding to open-ended content questions with group members. The strategy is intended to encourage students to process information and visually represent their thinking through drawing. Drawing as a note-taking tool provides opportunities for students to actively engage with the content and construct meaning in  personalized ways. The strategy is one that allows students to process via three different modalities: visual, kinesthetic, and semantic.


  1. Design three to four guiding questions that will promote critical thinking, content and/or personal connections, and deep reflection on key concepts. The guiding questions should be related to critical content, open-ended and independent of each other, while broad enough to elicit meaningful conversation. Close-ended and questions with a specific answer will not work with Café Conversation. Place one question with chart paper at each station along with basic art materials (markers, crayons, colored pencils). 
  2. Divide students into groups of 3-4. Note: If more than 4 guiding questions are needed to maintain smaller groups, create a second set of the same guiding questions for additional groups. Students will spend 5-7 minutes at each station working to answer each question. 
  3. Within their small groups, students should engage in dialogue around the guiding question, tracking their thinking and discussion using the chart paper and drawing utensils. Students use pictures, diagrams, and symbols to represent their thinking. All students should have a drawing utensil to paper the entire time. Words, sentences, and paragraphs should be avoided as making meaning from pictures, diagrams, and symbols encourages a greater degree of critical thinking. 
  4. At the end of each round of thinking, students leave each piece of chart paper at its designated location, and students rotate to a new piece of paper/guiding question. Groups should begin their conversation discussing the pictures, diagrams, and symbols left behind by the previous group. Students then work to extend the thinking of the last group as well as add their own thinking, again through pictures, diagrams, and symbols. Repeat this process until all groups have worked with all questions. 
  5. When all rotations are complete, each group returns to their original guiding question. Students discuss the ideas that other groups added to theirs, synthesizing the whole-group’s response to the guiding question. Each group should record their synthesis on a sentence strip to share out with the whole group. Debriefing the process afterward provides key insights into decisions students had to make when interpreting other’s drawings and  how they connected the different representations.



  • What different perspectives did you discover that you hadn’t previously considered?  
  • What was the most difficult aspect of communicating through illustration? 
  • How did the illustrations enhance your understanding of the content and your peers’ thinking?
  • Setting a timer for each round of Café Conversation helps students maintain focus throughout the process. Be mindful that though the amount of time provided may seem like too much, it can actually encourage students to go deeper in their thought process adding more to their initial response. Consider providing students with more time during the first round, shortening the amount of time each round thereafter. 
  • Consider allowing students to add 1 or 2 words to the sheet during later rounds as they are making sense of the thoughts captured on the paper. Note that this can shift how students interact with the questions and representations.
  • As students become more familiar with the process, they can be engaged in developing topics and guiding questions for discussion. 
  • To maintain accountability, specific colors of writing or drawing utensils can be assigned to students.



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Guidelines to facilitating a Socrates Café Discussion. Strategies for Classroom Dialogue. (2017, January 31). Retrieved April 11, 2022, from