Literary Discussions: Fishbowl Discussion

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SWBAT engage in a collaborative discussion by either participating in or observing a literature circle.

Big Idea

It's fishbowl day!


10 minutes

When the students come in the room today, they will see the classroom set up for our discussion.  I place the papers of the four students I have selected to be in the fishbowl on the four desks in the center of the room.  (Take a look at yesterday's lesson for more insight on this selection)  I make sure that their packet is open to the role I'd like them to fulfill in today's discussion.  It's fun to have them run in to see who got chosen to be in the fishbowl.  The mix of excitement and relief (mostly relief) always entertains me!

I invite the four students in the fishbowl to review their notes for the role they will be taking on today.  I remind them to review their Discussion Agreements as well.

As they are doing that, I have everyone else take out a new sheet of paper and set it up to take notes on today's discussion.  I also ask them to take out their Literature Circle packet and open to the rubric/note-taking page.

Getting Down to Business

30 minutes

While my "fish" are reviewing their notes, I draw the other students' attention to the note-taking key.  I let them know that they are going to focus on one "fish" and take notes on his or her contribution to the discussion.  Using the symbols will help them get information down more quickly. 

I then have the students on the outside of the bowl count off by fours.  Once everyone has a number, I will let them know which one of the "fish" each of them will be watching and listening to.

Now, it's time for the "fish" to begin!  I remind the students who will be participating in the discussion, that their main goal is to talk about chapter 10, using their notes as a guide.  It is not show-and-tell with their assignments. 

I ask the Discussion Director to throw out a question to get it rolling. 

This is where it gets hard, and where I can't write a "lesson plan."  Every group, every discussion is different.  There's no way to plan for this, and it always makes me NERVOUS!

Here's what I can do, though:

  • Take copious notes on what the kids are saying, good and bad.
  • Pause the discussion if a "teachable moment" presents itself. (Something was well said, or, more often than not, an opportunity to share was missed)


Once it feels like the conversation has exhausted, it's time to reflect!

Did They Get It?

10 minutes

It is important to end this activity with time for reflection.  Every student needs time to reflect on how the discussion went, both inside and outside the fishbowl.

It is at this point that I draw my students' attention to the Literature Circle Grading Rubric.  If they were observing, I ask them to choose a score for the person they were watching.  if they were in the discussion, I ask them to score themselves.

After they have written the number down (the members of the discussion will need a blank sheet of paper for this), I ask them to write a paragraph that explains their choice.  I remind them to use specific examples of what was said during the discussion as evidence to support their topic sentence.

This is also the time that I give the discussion participants a little treat to say "thank you" for being brave enough to participate! (Goldfish snacks always get me a smile!)

This paragraph is the culminating piece of the Introduction to Lit Circles unit. 

I grade all of this work as a formative assessment.  As students begin to participate in Literature Circles, I will move towards using one of the reflection paragraphs as a summative assessment.