Saturday, January 26, 2013

Valuing and Assessing Small Group Conversations

Book Talk Reflection Sheet
(click link above to download)
The Common Core addresses the value of conversations from first grade...
"Build on others' talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges."

to third grade...
"Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied to explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion."

to fifth grade...
"Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied to explicitly draw on that preparation and other information know about the topic to explore ideas under discussion. Review the key ideas expressed and draw conclusions in light of information and knowledge gained during discussion."

One of the ways I found to support students during conversation in small group instruction was to provide them with a Focus Book Talk Reflection sheet while reading.  This sheet was focused around one specific open-ended question that needed evidence to explain their thinking.   The question anchored our next discussion, but it also anchored their thinking while annotating while reading.  It pushed the students to think beyond the text.  After reading, students would answer the question/take notes/list evidence and color the stoplight to the right (green= good to go  yellow=anxious to talk because I am not sure  red=this was difficult and need to hear more from others).  When the students returned to their next small group, we would use this question to begin our conversation and use the writing as helpful hints to participate in the discussion.  The question would not be the only thing we would started the conversation with my teaching point.  Before the students would leave the group, each student would then add more thinking in writing that would combine their original thoughts with the conversation.  Then, after conversation, the students would color their level of confidence with the focus topic now.  This focused sheet helped to guide the readers through conversation and reading.  It provided me with each child's thinking...did the student demonstrate understanding prior to conversation when they were reading independently?  Did the student need conversation to further understanding?  And now...I had evidence of their thinking WHILE reading, AFTER reading, and AFTER discussion.  This tool provided an opportunity to notice, listen, and to determine what to support next.

Some examples of questions could be:

What kind of person is our main character?
Which event or character has impacted our main character's actions the most?
Who has the power in our story?
Evaluate a decision our character made.
Why is the character feeling the way they are?  Is this how you would feel?
What lesson did our character learn about __________?
How is the setting impacting our main character?
Using what you know about our character, how do you think the problem will be solved?
How does our character's situation mirror situations in your life or other character's lives?

What was your reading mostly about?
What caused ___________?
What was the purpose of our reading?
Why is this topic important?


  1. I have used this form in my classroom, and it really helps students both prepare for group and reflect on it. It gives a great sense of closure for students, rather than just walking away from group and forgetting it all.
    P.S. I like the new look!

    1. I agree! My favorite part is keeping all four sheets together to see their progress through the book. I typically split the book into fourths and do one each time. I originally did not have a vocabulary watch box, but after having a discussion about tier 2 words a few years ago...I added it in! :)