How do teachers get students to talk about their reading in a
As a high school English
teacher, I have often been reluctant to let students lead their own book
discussions. When I have tried book discussions in the
past, students focused on the literal meanings of their books, such as the basic recall of the plot; however, I wanted them to
use critical thinking, making inferences and relevant connections with their reading.
Consequently, over the past two years, I have experimented with
strategies, so I would feel more comfortable turning the discussion over to my
students (and to make them more at ease with taking ownership). These trials turned into my “Roundtable
Discussion,” and it’s become a great success.
Both students and administrators praised the use of this discussion
format, which I employed in my American Literature and AP Literature and
Here are some reasons why class discussions became more
1. Students preparefor their discussions. They use handouts to summarize, to identify
quotes and vocabulary, to write questions, and to research topics related to
their reading. These handouts are
assigned with specific chapters and discussion dates in mind. Students bring them to class and their completed
work is stamped at the beginning of discussion.
2. Students rehearse. After setting goals for discussion, students
meet with partners, sharing their quick writes, handouts, and goals. Next, they move the desks into a circle and
participate in a “whip around.” During this
activity, each student shares one thought about their reading. They cannot
respond to each other at this point; they just listen. Finally, this leads into spontaneous
3. After the
discussion, students reflect on the day’s
conversation. Often, they write about
whether they achieved their goals, but on other occasions I give them specific
prompts related to rubric criteria.
Sometimes I also use inside/outside circles, and students observe one
another. Then they used their peer’s
feedback for their reflections.
With practice, students had thoughtful discussions, and I was
rewarded with time to simply listen and observe. This has helped me develop other lessons
based on my informal assessment.
all? It’s wonderfully relaxing to be a
listener and not the lead participant in the discussion!
Would you be interested in learning more Roundtable
Discussion? You can get handouts, a
rubric, and a lesson plan here.
Hurray! Summer is the
time to savor activities and interests that most of us don’t have time for during the
school year. First on my list- joining
Kovescence of the Mind and other teacher bloggers in a School’s Out Blog Blowout. Find out how I plan to enjoy
summer and enter to win a $100 TpT gift card below!
My Summer Bucket List
Eastern Shore Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute
I participated in the summer institute in 2006 and loved the collegiality. Since then, I’ve worked as a teacher
consultant, attending conferences and writing scrambles, teaching young writers,
and presenting professional development.
Currently, I am interning as a facilitator by coaching writing groups and
supporting teachers as they create lessons to support writing
instruction in their schools.
Annual TpT Conference in Orlando
In July, my husband and I will drive from Maryland to
Orlando, so I can attend the annual Teachers Pay Teachers conference. Along the way we will visit friends in
Charleston, SC, and Charlotte, NC. This
will be my second TpT conference and last year I loved it! The conference helped me improve my resources
and network with other amazing teacher authors.
Read for Pleasure
I couldn’t wait to start my summer reading, so I’m already on
my fourth book. I’ve been gathering recommendations and have already read the following titles: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr,
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan, The Round House by Louise Erdrich, and The Red
Queen by Victoria Aveyard. My favorite
has been Mudbound, and now I have several friends reading it, too.
Gardening and Cooking
Although I don’t have much gardening experience, I’ve started
a small garden with tomatoes, peppers and herbs. It’s so rewarding to make fresh salsa,
salads, and soups.
Visits with family & friends During the school year,
time is scarce, so I spend my summer days reconnecting with family and friends.
Since we live in a popular vacation spot, we will have visits from both sides
of the family. No doubt, I’ll be
cleaning my house a lot to keep up with all of the company!
A Book On My Summer PD Reading List
I’ve just ordered Writing
with Mentors: How to Reach Every Writer in the Room Using Current, Engaging
Mentor Texts by Allison Marchetti. Each
additional year of teaching experience shows me that using mentor
texts is essential for improving student writing.
For instance, I use “The Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln as a mentor
text in my American Literature class. In
this popular lesson, students analyze Lincoln’s use of parallelism and then use
the technique in their own speeches. First,
they brainstorm people or events that are worthy of a memorial, and then they write speeches dedicating the memorials that they have designed.
Would you like to try this lesson in your class? It’s
available for free this week only!
Want more freebies? Read more summer bucket lists from other teacher bloggers
Enter to win a $100 TpT gift card in the contest here: