Reading Workshop: Student-Led
for Group Leaders
These groups of four or five students may discuss a section of a
novel, short story, myth, fairy tale, or nonfiction selection that
they have recently dealt with in a strategic-reading group. More
often, though, they discuss reading materials at their independent
levels, in literature circles and book clubs.
discussions don't just happen. You have to seed them in such a way
that students apply what they've learned during mini-lessons, guided
practice, and small strategic-reading groups to their discussions.
Often I'll suggest a focus for book discussions that relates to
our work. I might ask students one week to "Be able to find
the page that supports predictions and record these in your journal,"
or "Select a dialogue, reread it, and discuss what it teaches
you about the characters' personality and the plot," or "Work
with your group or partner to use the text to figure out the meanings
of words you've jotted on a sticky-note." If I'm having difficulty
listening to all groups in a week, I invite students to summarize
their discussions in journals which I can read later.
for Organizing Student-Led Discussion Groups
students how to lead and participate in productive book discussions
eventually frees you to work with individuals, pairs, or small groups
who require additional scaffolding. During this time, you can also
support groups who struggle with valuing diverse ideas, referring
to their books for evidence, or focusing on the discussion. What
follows are ideas for managing and planning, as well as guidelines
for the group's leader and prompts students can use to move book
- Set behavior
guidelines with students.
- Offer books
that are at the comfort or independent reading levels of students.
All students can read the same novel; each student can read a
different book, or groups can read the same title that relates
to an author study or a common theme.
the consequences of being unprepared for a book discussion. In
my class, unprepared students read the pages in class before joining
- Tell students
the reading and writing choices they will have after they complete
a discussion and journal work.
- Decide on
the number of student-led book discussions you will have each
week. The number will change and depend on other reading experiences
that you offer students.
- To show everyone
what a meaningful discussion looks like, place a group of four
or five students on center stage in front of the room. Invite
them to discuss a story or several chapters in a book. Prompt
students with questions when necessary. Ask the class to discuss
what worked well, then set one goal that can improve the discussion.
Have other groups, in turn, take center stage and discuss a story
or part of a book.
- Reserve time
to circulate once groups move from center stage demonstrations
to student-led discussions. Listen and validate students' conversations
or offer questions that maintain the momentum of the discussion.
Spotlight what worked well. Note groups who might benefit from
extra teacher support and work with them.
Suggestions for Teachers
- Help students
decide on how many chapters they'll read before discussing. I
encourage students to read two to four chapters.
- Ask students
to create their own discussion questions or offer open-ended questions
that you have practiced with them.
the importance of finding evidence in the book to support responses.
- Have students
summarzie a book discussion in their journals bi-monthly. Read
students' summaries to assess how much students recall.
- Invite students
to evaluate their participation in discussion groups. Ask them
to consider these questions: Was I prepared? Did I contribute?
Did I use the book to support my ideas? Did I listen to and value
the ideas of other students? Did I stay on task?
for the Group Leader
- Rotate this
position so all students can experience leading.
- Open by asking,
"Has everyone completed the reading?"
- Ask one of
your group's questions. Move to other questions after everyone
has expressed their ideas.
- Use prompts
to keep moving the conversation.
That Move a Discussion Forward
- Can you give
support from the story?
- Does anyone
have something to add?
- Does anyone
have a different idea?
- Can you connect
this book to other books?
- Can you connect
a character/event to your life?
- Did the discussion
raise a question? What is it?