Reading discussions stall without enough participation. Students tend to self-identify as quiet or talkative, and those identities too often dictate involvement. As a result, discussions may resemble a ping-pong-like exchange between the teacher and a few outgoing students. What about everyone else? Their ideas matter, too.
How can I improve participation?
Try varying the discussion format. You could break into small groups or have students work with partners. Also try varying the mode of discussion. Instead of verbal discussions, students could exchange written responses to a reading.
A go-to strategy we use is to have students discuss readings in a collaborative document, such as a Google Doc. The digital workspace gives both introverts and extroverts time to read, respond to, and comment on each other's ideas. With the right technology, students can share responses in class or at home.
How can I create a collaborative reading document?
Follow or adapt these steps to create a collaborative discussion document.
- Create a blank Google Document.
- Choose a common reading for students to respond to. Note the title and page range at the top of the document.
- Create discussion questions for students to respond to. Space out each question to leave room for answers.
- Change the privacy settings to give students editing privileges.
- Ask students to review the questions and answer a set number (for example, two per student.) Tell them they need to provide thoughtful responses in complete sentences. Students should provide their names after their responses.
- Have students then review their classmates’ answers and respond to a set number (for example, two). Again, ask for thoughtful responses and student signatures.
- Provide class time for students to answer and respond.
- Review and repurpose the collaborative document:
- Students can use the document for study prep and writing ideas.
- You can use the document to check comprehension and spark further discussion.