When young readers are able to put their thinking about text into words, they are working at a higher level of analysis. Readers need time to approximate this skill. It's not going to be perfect in the beginning. Readers will try their hand at discussing books. But when they frequently have time to engage in conversations about text their discussion skills will develop as their comprehension building skills strengthen.
Young readers need expectations to guide their talk about books. They are not going to be able to automatically have deeply insightful discussions about the texts they read. Young readers need guidelines and conditions to facilitate their book talk. When readers have guidelines and expectations they will be better equipped to build and develop their book talking techniques.
First and foremost, young readers need discussion starters. They need some stems to frame their talk about books. It seems so minor, but when readers KNOW how to frame a comment to add to a discussion about books they will be better equipped to actively engage in the book talk.
Readers need time to practice discussing books they are reading independently and reading together with others. Readers need to have a model of good book talk and the kinds of points to bring to a conversation. And most importantly, readers need to know how to respectfully disagree with a point in the conversation. (Isn't this a social skill every person needs...how to respectfully disagree!)
So, once your readers consistently engage in conversations about what they are reading with others or independently it's time for you to figure out how to facilitate those conversations and nudge your readers to do more.
Observation notetaking during book discussions is an essential part of monitoring your readers' progress. When they are engaging in talk and putting their thoughts into words, this is a valuable piece of data that will richly inform your instruction.
Expectations You MUST Have For Student Book Talk
Readers should be expected to have a plan for framing their talking points within a discussion. So, readers need discussion stems and starters to help them frame their book talk. When students have discussions starters to frame their talking points, they will better equipped to engage in the book talk.
Readers should be expected to understand how to participate in book conversations. Readers need to know what you are looking for within a book discussion. Show them a rubric for book talk. When your readers know what is expected during a discussion, they will know what active engagement looks like.
Readers should be expected to talk about books with a partner.
Readers should be expected to participate in talk about texts you are reading together. Readers need time to engage in conversations about shared texts--close reading, shared reading, read alouds, etc.
Readers should be expected to actively participate in small group conversations about text. Readers need time to participate in discussions during small group reading instruction and guided reading sessions.
Readers should be expected to be an active participant in large group discussions about texts they are reading. Readers need time to actively engage in book discussions with the whole group.
You should expect to gain valuable information about your readers during book discussions. You need quick notetaking guides. You don't want to miss important parts of the discussion because you are writing down notes about your readers' discussion points.
You need easy to use notetaking guides. You may want to create a template of your classroom that you can grab and go. You may also want to create some easy to use codes for documenting common points made by your readers during a discussion so that you can be more attentive to the discussion ideas rather than the notetaking.
When your readers can actively engage in book conversations, they are working at a higher level of analysis. Readers need time to approximate this skill. It's not going to be perfect in the beginning as readers try their hand at talking about books. But when your readers frequently have time to engage in conversations about text their discussion skills will develop and their comprehension skills will strengthen.
Until next time,
The forms and notebook inserts pictured above can be found here...