Authentic discussion is at the heart of an envisionment-building classroom.
The processes of conversation—both talking and listening—help students think deeply about their reading.
Other key points include:
- Discussion allows students to hear and respond to ideas different from their own.
- Discussion allows students to test their own thinking in the context of peer feedback.
- Discussion helps students expand their understandings of both a text and the world.
- Open-ended discussions encourage genuine inquiry, thereby enriching student thinking.
- Because language generates thought, discussions develop and expand understandings of texts.
- Discussions can help participants confront significant moments in their lives.
- Rich classroom conversations develop with practice when students feel the classroom atmosphere is safe and comfortable.
- Students come to class with a rich array of personal experiences on which to draw during literary discussions.
- Encouraging students to bring up their own ideas and experiences helps them assume increasing ownership of their discussions.
- Envisionment-building teachers use extensive modeling of their own literary questions and responses as well as generative, open-ended questions to encourage and extend discussion.
- Tools such as the Consensus Board (PDF), response journals, and a Question Board (a place where students write questions as they arise) can help students generate and organize material for discussions.
- Teachers need to help students learn how to articulate authentic questions about texts and use them as starting points for literary conversations.
- Encouraging and reinforcing the importance of good, thought-provoking questions from the students helps them expand their thinking and delve deeper into the literature.
- Open-ended questions encourage the expression of multiple answers and multiple points-of-view, generating rich discussion.
- Sometimes teachers need to ask questions that help students consider aspects of the text they might not have thought of on their own.
- Questions indicate active engagement with a text and an attempt to resolve problems.
- Respect is an essential part of a literary community and a key element in good discussions.
- Placing student ideas, questions, and concerns at the center of the discussion honors student reading processes and their participation in texts.
- Helping students reflect on their discussions—what worked and what needed improvement—helps students improve conversational skills.
- Silences during discussion may mean that a question needs to be rephrased or that students need time to consider it thoughtfully.
- Classroom arrangements where students can gather in a circle and see one another support full-class discussion; tables or desks grouped together for four to six students encourage small-group conversations.
- Asking students to prepare ahead of time for discussion gives them an opportunity to organize their thoughts about their reading and leads to rich conversations.
- Teachers sensitive to individual personalities and the nuances of group discussion find ways to invite quieter students into conversations.
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