Novel Discussion, Day One

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Students will be able to discuss a novel by posing and responding to questions, incorporating others into discussion, and presenting their own ideas and justifications.

Big Idea

Moving beyond talking at one another--true discussion.

Do Now: One Important Word

5 minutes

As on our last novel day, today's Do Now is intended to be a quick reading check for me. I ask students to pull one important word or phrase from their novel so far. I quickly take attendance and jump over to student responses.

Huck Finn: racism, friends, trick

My Antonia: Nebraska, English

Fallen Angels: angel soldiers, volunteer


Yes, a few students are STILL unprepared, but most have read and still show enthusiasm for their books--another win!

Novel Discussion

20 minutes

Today is our first official discussion. I review my expectations briefly, knowing we'll spend more time analyzing good discussion on our next novel day (I'm planning a fishbowl discussion around the group which most impresses me today).

What do I want to see?

  • more analysis than summary--dig into the "how" and "why" of the novel
  • full participation--everyone contributes
  • actual conversation--listen and respond/build rather than read from logs
  • text support--offer quotes and specific details to support ideas

In order to help me identify my best group (and to hold students accountable for their work), I ask each group to film their discussion using an iPad. After their discussion, the film-master will email the discussion to me, giving me the chance to check the quality of their work, both in analysis and understanding of the novel and in discussion standards.

Students break into groups to discuss (or find a quiet place to read if they are not prepared for discussion). I stroll around the room as they begin, answering film-related questions and offering gentle reminders to get to work; the prospect of filming has a few groups spooked. I point out that I only need voices, not faces; it's fine to film with the camera face-down. This appeases the camera-shy students, moving us into a productive discussion and film session.

I notice that some students aren't really discussing yet, but rather are talking at one another, reading off their logs. I will need to present a good example in a future lesson.

  Want to start with a model rather than use your students? Check out how I modeled good discussion in this lesson.


20 minutes

I again give students time to read, knowing that many students won't read at home if they aren't engaged or at least nearly done from reading in class. Students get comfortable and push further into their novels.