Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Student Led Book Discussions

The community college I work at started a common reading program this semester. Professors in all disciplines were invited to try to incorporate the book in their class.  Being an English teacher made that easy for me.

Part of the program involves getting the campus community, as a whole, involved with the book.  So we decided to do book talks that anyone could attend.  However, we had some of our classes host them.  Since 3 of my classes would be hosting public book talks I wanted to have them be student led and meaningful.

In order to accomplish this I decided to rely on our friend, Bloom.  Using Bloom's taxonomy, I created three "levels" of questions that I needed my students to write.  I asked them to write one question per level.  They then had to respond to their own question, provide a justification for why the question was relevant, and had to list page numbers and follow up questions that they could use to keep the conversation going.

The students are divided into groups of 3-7 depending on class size  (I have one class with 13 students and another with 28!) that lead the discussion for that section of the book.  I have told the students my goal is to not speak what-so-ever. (This is a major challenge for me! I was voted most talkative in high school out of a class of over 400...)

Well, we had our first round of discussions last week and... they were a success! I stayed quiet, and in general students warmed up and got interested in discussing the book.  My one class had so many visitors we ended up with 40 people in the room.

In order to make this work for you don't forget to go over proper discussion protocol.  I told my students to follow the "3 before me" rule (or in my small classes, 2), to make eye contact, to speak loudly, to watch for cues to speak or not speak, and to be respectful.  My participants knew that I had marked down where each one of them was sitting and would be tracking the flow of discussion and marking who had spoken and who hadn't.

In the future, I'd probably model more questions and answers for my students.  I might also create an exit ticket for students to fill out with a brief reflection before leaving the discussion.

Sometime in the next few weeks I'll list the materials I created for this assignment and you to can get your students talking about books!

Thanks for reading! 

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