Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup

Making Meaning in Literature Grades 6-8
Conversations in Literature — Workshop

About Making Meaning in Literature: A Workshop for Teachers, Grades 6-8

Individual Workshop Descriptions

1. Introducing our Literary Community
2. Encouraging Discussion
3. Going Further in Discussion
4. Diversity in Texts
5. Student Diversity
6. Literature, Art, and Other Disciplines
7. Assessment
8. Planning and Professional Development
9. Starting in September...

HomeEnvisionment BuildingHelpful Hints for Site LeadersLesson BuilderSearch this SiteSite Map


Key Points

Learning Objectives

Background Reading

Homework Assignment

Classroom Connection
Ongoing Activity

Additional Reading

Key Points

  • Students are encouraged to offer their unique perspectives, share interpretations, and raise questions in classrooms that support discussions.
  • Discussion provides students with opportunities to explore the layers of possibility individuals bring to each reading, including unique experiences in their lives and differing perspectives based on the books they have read.
  • Classrooms that support students' developing understandings provide a safe learning community where students feel free to share their range of ideas. They feel respected and learn to respect and trust others in the community.
  • Writing is an important rehearsal for fruitful classroom discussions.
  • Students are treated as life-long learners in classrooms that support discussion.
  • Teachers can encourage discussion by:
    • Providing engaging texts, such as literature that features adolescents and their dilemmas.
    • Asking questions that help students tap prior knowledge and life experiences.
    • Choosing a compelling passage and reading it aloud.
    • Being a good listener to students' ideas.
    • Setting discussion guidelines in concert with student input.
    • Modeling ways to connect to the literature. For instance, share personal experiences that the text makes you recall or similar situations you have encountered in your life.
    • Using think alouds to demonstrate the ways you are interacting with the literature as you read.
    • Modeling writing as a way to collect your own ideas about a text.
    • Inviting students to create their own questions about the text.
    • Removing yourself as the point from which all conversation flows.
  • Successful discussions do not occur without careful strategic planning. In planning for discussion:
    • Consider ways to help students find their way into the text. This is crucial in getting a conversation started.
    • Consider ways you can model thinking, writing, and connecting the text to your own life.
    • Physically arrange your classroom so that it best supports discussion. This may be small groups, pairs, teams, or rows facing one another. Rely on your knowledge of your students, their energy level, their experience with discussion, and your goals for the discussion. It may be necessary to change the configurations often for optimum success.
    • Know that all groups will not be successful. When this happens, sometimes it is best to allow the group to break off into smaller groups or to allow students to work independently and join the class later in a whole-class discussion.
    • Think about which students in your class are more likely to contribute to discussion and which ones are more reluctant. Plan for including all students in the literary discussion. This might include your listening to a group's discussion and directing the conversation towards the quieter students or creating heterogeneous groups with many personalities and temperaments.
    • Consider ways to respond to the literature, other than discussion, such as the use of art and writing. These opportunities will include some of the quieter students.
    • Think about ways you can encourage students to pose their own questions.
  • Discussion creates a classroom environment where students focus less on recitation and memorization and more on substantial inquiry and analysis.
  • Questions are a natural part of the literary experience and students are invited to raise thought-provoking questions in a literary community. Questions are never viewed as not knowing or not fully understanding, as in a traditional classroom.
  • Literary concepts are learned in context, as students use this literary lexicon as the fabric of their discussions, developing their understandings and growing their interpretations. Teachers can provide opportunities for literary concept experience by:
    • Asking questions that foreground literary elements in a text.
    • Modeling the use of literary language in questions and contributions to discussions.
    • Planning natural connections in the text. If a text lends itself well to "foreshadowing," for instance, find ways to bring this to your students' attention and allow them to take the conversation further. This may include the use of picture books, read alouds, or questioning.

 previous   next 


© Annenberg Foundation 2017. All rights reserved. Legal Policy