- In classrooms that support discussion, teachers guide
students to examine texts at a deep level, connecting the
literature to other texts and their own lives, and exploring
possibilities for themselves.
- Teachers can help students take a discussion further once
it's underway by:
- Posing broad thought-provoking questions to encourage
students to consider texts in a variety of ways. These
types of questions have no wrong or right answer and
invite students to think "what if
"how does this apply to my own life?"
- Preparing lists of key issues or concerns that prompt
students to explore areas of a text they would not have
- Modeling read alouds from texts in the midst of literature
discussion. A read aloud is the expressive reading of
a passage from literature. When planned in advance,
this may include the use of dramatic voice, props, or
music. An impromptu read aloud demonstrates to students
that good readers revisit a text for further examination.
- Expanding and enriching students' understandings
through artwork, music, drama, and writing.
- Providing a discussion format or structure that students
can follow and then go beyond. Teachers may post this
format or provide a discussion guide.
- Modeling and celebrating risk-taking in the classroom.
Students need to feel confident that their thoughts
and ideas have merit and are worth trying out with the
- Teachers need to develop a "third ear" for productive
conversations insuring that students listen to each
other, build on each other's ideas, challenge each other,
and still have something new to offer.
- Teachers must be ready to step in and help move the conversation
forward, to help students consider other possibilities,
consider the same issues in more complex ways, or to move
on and get more information by reading or connecting to
literature, history, and life.
- Teachers need to monitor their interjections in a discussion,
allowing students to take the conversation in directions
the teacher may not have considered.
- Personalizing what we read is a natural part of the literary
process for experienced readers. Teachers can help students
personalize what they read. Some questions teachers can
ask students to make personal connections to the text include:
- How do your own experiences help us better understand
- How do you see the character differently? How might
she feel? What else might she do?
- How else could you explain what happened?
- Have you thought about...?
- What did the event or scene remind you of?
- How did it make you feel?
- How would you handle the situation?
- Did anything like this ever happen to you?
- What can you learn from how the characters handled
- Does the story make you rethink any of your own choices
or decisions? Explain.
- You know you have a successful discussion when:
- Students begin to converse with one another instead
of through the teacher.
- Students use the text as a starting point, but go
beyond it by connecting the text to their lives and
the world in which they live.
- Students are listening to one another and making
comments based on what others have contributed to the
- Students argue with one another, revisit the text
to make a point, and express passion about their viewpoints.
- Students can identify what made the discussion powerful
and what they took away from it that they would not
have been able to do without the interaction with other
- Students are posing their own questions.
- Teachers need to guide students in thinking about what
they gained from the discussion. This awareness helps students
understand the depth of the conversations they are having.
Some questions that might help students examine their discussions
- How did the discussion impact your understanding
of the literature? For instance, how is your interpretation
of the literature different from your initial understandings
- How did the discussion change your perspectives?
- What did you learn about yourself from the conversation?
What did you learn about others?
- What did you learn about the world in which you live?
- How did you contribute to the conversation?