Discourse in my 5th grade classroom usually takes one of two forms:
The first is slightly trivial, taking the form of bickering and full-out arguing between students and students or students and teacher, but I do include it as a form of discourse because it takes up a massive amount of daily time. In fact, I would guesstimate that a good 70% of verbal interaction between everyone in the classroom is in the form of a complaint or argument. I therefore think it should be considered when evaluating the type of talk and learning that goes on in the room.
The second is presented in the proverbial IRE recitation style (Inquiry by the teacher, Response by the student, Evaluation by the teacher). Unfortunately, for both my boredom level and the attention span of the children, classroom discussion is seldom practiced. It is quite the shame that most children get reprimanded with talking out of turn more than they are encouraged to speak their reactions to course material. On the other hand, however, I understand the teacher's dilemma in maintaining control of her 33 10-year-olds.
My questions still remains: how on earth do we lead a discussion, interact with students on the minimum, and still maintain a learning atmosphere that never deviates from the desired topic?