Exploring Theme Through Discussion

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Objective

SWBAT effectively engage in discussion by preparing and sharing quality questions and comments about their novels.

Big Idea

We finished reading--so what? Using discussion to look for the big picture.

Do Now: Reflect on Reading

15 minutes

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. Today's reflection, though, is a little different from our earlier reflections. Today we are ready to discuss the book as a whole, and so I ask students to reflect on the big picture.

  • What lessons (or themes) can we take from the novel? How do they relate to one another?
  • What's the "so what"? In other words, why does this novel exist? How is it significant?
  • Is this novel worth reading? Why?

I again encourage the use of text proof as students construct their responses. Students write silently, and I'm happy to see they are focused. These responses will serve as their notes and contributions (or at least the start of their contributions) for discussion.

Discussion

30 minutes

Because this is our final discussion, I expect it will take longer than previous discussions. The format used in earlier lessons in which I split my time between my 2 large groups will not work. Thus, today I ask my Color Purple group, which tends to focus better without me, to keep track of their own discussion. One student volunteers to be a recorder of ideas and speakers (basically keeping a running list of who says what and when they say it), and they begin immediately, anxious to discuss their book as a whole.

I sit with A Walk Across America group, taking notes on who speaks and clarifying when necessary. As in the past, the conversation is vivid and engaging. Students are eager to draw connections to modern society ("What would happen if someone did this today?" "See how the one governor is respected for the wrong reason? That's just like the president!"), and I must pull them back to the big picture of the book itself to avoid political debate. Once students are grounded in the book, they make valuable observations, building to a better understanding of the book as transcendent. One student's final synthesis of the conversation includes, "So from Peter, we see that transcendence is more than just finding oneself; he finds his place in society and helps others find themselves, too."

In the closing minutes of class, I share my observations about their discussion as a nod to their growth: