Discussion Guidelines: Building a Literary Community
Here are some suggested guidelines to consider as you begin
to build your own literary community with your students. Paramount
to creating a viable classroom literary community is the opportunity
for students to take ownership of the classroom environment
they help to create. Consider the following ideas as you create
discussion guidelines in concert with your students:
- All contributions are valuable and deserving of respectful
- There is no such thing as a "bad idea." But some ideas
do not hold up. Help one another to explain, reflect, and
evaluate ideas to determine what works and what needs to
- There are many interpretations of literature and hearing
others' views helps us develop our own understandings.
- Questions are essential in the process of understanding
- You may express opinions about a piece of literature as
long as you can also explain your reasons for your opinions.
- Understandings of literature are constantly open to change,
revision, and debate.
- It is O.K. to not like a piece of literature, as long
as you have reasons why.
- It is O.K. to not understand something, but you should
also remain open to possible understandings in the future,
built through discussion and further reading.
- Come Prepared
- Read and think about the piece
- Bring questions
- Bring your book and any assigned writing
- Respond Appropriately
- Address your responses to classmates by using eye
contact and not necessarily to the teacher.
- Do not put down another person's idea.
- Ask questions when you don't understand someone's
viewpoint and when you are curious about something.
- Disagree politely, providing examples to back up your
- Continue to raise questions about the text, related
texts, experiences, and possible interpretations.
- Refer to significant passages that confused you, inspired
you, or just struck you.
- Discuss the author's craft and what about it worked
or did not and why.
- Respect each individual's idea by listening, responding
appropriately, and by thinking about what they have
- Every time you think about the literature, discuss
it, and interact with it. Expect that your interpretation
is going to change or evolve.
- There is no "right" or "single" interpretation of
a work of literature. But this does not mean "anything
- Questions are just as important as answers and ideas.
You can learn from your questions. Good questions provoke
discussion and exploration and can lead to sharpened
- Examine what it might be like to "walk in a character's
- Use examples from your own life experiences, in order
to connect to the reading, as well as to explain your
- Think about what you can learn from the reading or
what the reading has taught you about your own life.
Share these ideas.
- Refer to passages that you find significant.
- Think about if the text inspired you? Confused you?
Did you like the style of the passage?
- Consider how the style of the writing affected your
reading and your interpretation of it.
- Continue to raise new questions.