Digital Seminar: What does it mean to be an "outsider"?


Everyone, especially adolescents, has had the experience of feeling like an outsider and the struggle of finding a way to build meaningful connections to the people around us. In the midst of our own feelings, we often forget that others have these same experiences, though perhaps for different reasons. Reading is known to increase empathy in readers as they explore the internal workings of the characters in the books they are reading,[1]  so it is important that students not only read for cognitive purposes, but for affective ones.  In addition, feelings of being an 'outsider' may be impacted by the cultures with which one identifies, so an exploration of dominant and marginalized cultures may deepen the discussion.  

The following seminar questions could be used in a live seminar (e.g., Paideia, restorative circle) or a digital seminar using Flipgrid where students post 30-second to 1- minute responses to each of the seminar questions and then reply to two or more of their peers' responses. For students needing more support, it is recommended that the teacher provide sentence starters/stems that are widely available online (e.g., add on, agree/disagree, question/clarify). 

There are three main advantages to hosting a digital seminar over a live one in this case. First, students who might struggle to formulate extemporaneous responses will have time to create answers without the pressure of time. Second, although some students might be uncomfortable with being recorded, having the opportunity to review and revise their responses before publishing, having notes or a script available, etc. can lower their affective filter. The final, and perhaps most important reason, is that of equity of voice. We have all had students who dominate and those who disappear in seminars, and this is an effective way of adjusting for both behaviors. 


  • Copies of the seminar questions and sentence starters (if using)
  • Computers  or tablets with camera/microphone and internet access OR
  • Flipgrid has a free app that students can download and use on their phones


  1.  Create a Flipgrid for each class and share the join code with students. [Click here for YouTube tutorials from Flipgrid.]
  2. Consider a test run of videos (e.g., simple introductions) to verify that students know how to post and respond to videos. 
  3. Post each of the following questions as a "topic" in the class Flipgrid. 
  4. Provide students with a hard copy of the questions and sentences starters (if using) so that they can plan their responses prior to recording their responses. 

Seminar Questions

  • Which character in the book do you identify with and why?
  • Which situations/events/problems in the book do you identify with and why?
  • Did you agree or disagree with significant decisions of the main character(s)? Why, or why not?
  • What cultures might have been represented in this book?  Which cultures were marginalized? Which were dominant?
  • In what ways was the character an outsider (politically, culturally, socially, economically, etc.)? How did you identify that he or she was outsider ?
  • How, and in what ways did being an outsider impact the character's life? (in either positive and/or negative ways)
  • In your opinion, what were the messages the author was trying to send within this book? (Or: What do you think the author's purpose was for writing this book?)
  • In which ways did you agree or disagree with the author's message? Why?  
  • In what ways might your feelings about the message have been impacted by your culture?  
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