To get my students ready for their literary circle discussion, we will take a few minutes to review the Discussion Agreements in their Literary Circle Packet (hyperlink). We will also look at the discussion rubric that they will be using to rate their performance in the discussion.
I will read each of the items in the "4" section of the rubric. We will talk about what some of the specific criteria look like and sound like. I will draw their attention to the differences between a score of 4 and a score of 3 in a discussion. Namely, it involves initiating new ideas and bringing others into the discussion through verbal exchange or invitation. It is also important to build on the ideas of others, rather than just throwing out new topic after new topic.
Once I'm sure everyone remembers how to participate in our discussion, I set them free to talk amongst themselves!
I invite the Discussion Director to begin the conversation by posing a question to his or her group.
As the groups are discussing, I will travel around the room listening to each group. I make notes on specific comments that I hear that are both good and poor examples of a literary discussion.
At the end of 20 minutes or when there's a notable quieting down of the room, I will get their attention and let them know they have one minute to wrap it up.
Now it's time to talk about the talking!
During the discussion, I circulate around the room taking notes on good things I hear and not-so-good things I hear from each group. To start our debriefing session, I will share some of my observations. I am careful to mention names when I'm celebrating a success, but not mention them when I'm sharing an area that needs improvement. The students who were off task or not engaged already know who they are!
I invite students to give an example of something that happened in their group that was positive. Hopefully, at least one person from each group will want to share.
At the end of our debriefing conversation, I will have students use the rubric in their packet to give themselves a score. Before they begin, we will talk about proper paragraph format. I like these paragraphs to be at least five sentences long. They should have a topic sentence that includes their discussion score, three examples that explain why they gave themselves that score, and a conclusion sentence to wrap it up.
This assignment can be formative for the first few discussions and evolve into a summative assessment once the students have the hang of literary discussions.