A colleague and I are teaching a workshop after school about running literature discussion groups. One of the overriding messages that we are trying to convey is that there must be lots of guided practice for the students before they are sent off to read novels in groups. Lots and lots of practice. Lots.
This practice might take a lot of different forms. At the beginning, it is the teacher reading aloud and stopping to have students write down their thinking. Then, there might be opportunities for students to practice discussions using picture books since they can finish these during one class period.
There is no magic to the lessons we are talking about, other than the need for constant debriefing with the students about what worked for them in their groups and giving them strategies of how to solve what didn’t work.But, I did begin to notice the need to have picture books that were more ‘deep’ thinking books. These books deal with bigger topics and issues that students can hopefully find things to discuss.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson - I love this one because it doesn't have a happy ending. The girls are mean to the new girl and eventually, she stops coming to school. Chloe thinks about how much she has hurt Maya, but doesn't have the opportunity to make amends.
Finding Lincoln by Ann Malaspina - Louis has to do a report on Lincoln, but it's 1951 in Alabama and he's not allowed to use the library. Find out what he does to finish his report.
Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan - I love this book. I think kids can relate to the embarrassment that Rubina would feel about brining along her little sister, uninvited, to a birthday party.
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson - A great story about two girls who live on opposite sides of the fence.