Small Group Book Discussions in 6th Grade

I've ditched reading logs and book reports for my students long ago. I want them to focus on reading a book that they enjoy - for pleasure - and not worrying about stopping to write on post-its, or record how many pages they've read each night. My classroom (and life) was transformed when I read the book "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller.

I begin the school year with whole class book discussion each Wednesday. We sit in a circle, each student having a chance to talk about the book they are reading. They choose their own books, and if they do a good job talking about their book, others will ask to borrow it afterwards. I just act as facilitator, keeping the students on task, and reminding them about proper manners when someone is speaking.

Usually around the last marking period of the year, I will try to break them into small groups to embark on their own discussions. It's been modeled, so they know what is expected of them. They will be given a set of questions to guide them that generically work for all book types. Usually, a natural leader will emerge to take on the task of facilitator, making sure the group stays on task, and that the pace continues. My role then becomes one of outside observer - making sure that everyone is participating, and that questions asked are appropriate.

Each week I will make up the groups of 5-7 students in order to ensure those more subdued students aren't overwhelmed by larger personalities. I want everyone to feel comfortable to participate in the discussion about the books they've chosen to read. I made 5 different discussion guide sheets just to keep it interesting (A-E). Each student, besides participating in the discussion, will have one question to respond to on paper about their book.  Even if they are not finished with their book, they can still be an active member of the group.   

If you are interested in the master files of the discussion sheets, just email me and I'll happily send them your way.  (susankotch@gmail.com)