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.