Do you have struggling readers in your classroom? One of the most important steps in developing stronger readers is to build up both community and foster a student's identity as a reader. In this 2 sheet discussion generator I have 40 questions that will help students build bridges of trust between one another.
If students are going to discuss texts with one another, students have to feel safe talking to one another. If students don't feel safe or comfortable with one another, then they cannot be vulnerable enough to ask a question of the class about the text at hand. Building community is important with all students, AP to struggling students, but it is especially critical with students who may feel otherwise disenfranchised by the fast pace of a high school classroom.
To build community, I like to start classes with a question that is somewhat silly, sometimes serious but that all students can answer. These questions humanize the students to one another and begin to break down barriers, then to build bridges. I ask questions such as:
-What's your favorite TV show?
-What would you chose if you had to pick one: wash the dishes, clean the bathroom or clean the floors of where you live?
-If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
-What's something you're proud of about yourself?
-What's something that really annoys you that someone in your family does?
Next, I like to build community and establish that everyone in the classroom is a reader. As people become more familiar with one another on a human level, I next ask questions about their identity as a reader. Here are a couple as a sample:
-What was your favorite book when you were in elementary school?
-Who is a character you most admire from a book you've read?
After about 5 minutes on this, maybe even less, I get started with the hard work of learning. Spending just a little time here helps build the trust in the room, especially if we lay down groundwork for communication like:
-No cell phones or computer touching during this time
-Eye contact with the person who is speaking
-Have good posture if you're speaking, have good posture if you're listening.
Be respectful to the process: no mocking or teasing
I also find that it's a good thing to be funny, but also enforce the rules using comedy and as much grace whenever possible. For example, you can say funny things like, "Don't be a jerkasaurus" when you model ways that would be potentially disrespectful and breaking the rules. I don't know why, but kids always like it when you say hippo or add "a-saurus" to the end of adjectives.
I have a list of over 40 community building questions that will help establish a strong reading community within your classroom if used regularly (2-3 times a week).