As in our previous novel lesson, we start today with silent written reflection on the reading due. This allows students to prepare their own thoughts and have contributions for discussion (and also allows for review given our last lesson was a week before, interrupted by days of state testing).
I feel it is important for students to have engagement and basic knowledge about a novel's plot and characters before diving into any advanced skill work (which the CCSS for the 11-12 band is), so today is another discussion only day.
I once again review expectations (a week of abnormal schedules due to state testing has my class a bit "off," if you know what I mean): while I am working with one group, the other will silently read. During discussion, everyone is to participate. In discussion, students run the show; they are to question and respond to one another, building off of each question and comment.
Discussion today is sparse; two students in each group provide an adequate summary, listing key events and character responses (example from The Color Purple: Harpo doesn't beat his wife right away, which leads to Celie telling him to, perhaps because she is jealous). After, we have a few long silences until another student steps up with a question (Why does Celie think abuse is okay?) or comment (The culture and relationships of the times were different). Students do not seem prepared for discussion, which is not terribly surprising (though still disappointing) given last week's schedule. Through discussion, they are at least able to hear a summary of basic knowledge.
I end with an admonishment: students need to be prepared [by reading] for future classes because we will be entering skill work; if they are not prepared, they will not be able to practice the skills they will need.
As I said above, while I discuss with one group, the other reads. To some teachers, this may seem like wasted time; however, I know my students do not often read what I assign as homework unless they already have a head start (and I'm quite sure I'm not alone in this battle), so this reading time truly helps the class keep up.