3 Tips to Promote Powerful Reading Conversations and Discourse

3 Tips to Promote Powerful Reading Conversations and Discourse

Are you looking to strengthen student reading comprehension, increase class participation, and help your students develop a love for reading a wide range of books? By engaging students in powerful reading discourse, you will help your students do all three!

When students engage in reading discourse with their peers about the books that they read, their motivation and interest in reading increase, and their comprehension skills become stronger. This is because students must listen to what others say and then join the conversation by responding using both their own opinion and text evidence. When students are engaged in conversations about books they use the reading strategies that you have taught them to dive deeper into the books that they read.

Increasing the amount of conversations about books that kids have with their peers each day is a great way to strengthen student comprehension skills. Here are three ways that I promote powerful reading conversations and discourse in my classroom.

1. Give Them the Reading Stems

Reading Talking Stems for Upper Elementary Bulletin Board and Classroom

If we want students to talk about the books that they are reading in meaningful ways then we have to teach them how! Get started teaching students how to engage in reading discourse by engaging them with picture book read-alouds and these reading talking stems.  Create a bulletin board with these stems to encourage students to use them all year long! I also give my students these reading stems in list form to keep in their reading notebooks to always have on hand for small group and partner reading tasks. Using reading stems helps students to start conversations and keep the conversation going! Students can respond with questions, responses, clarifications, and piggyback off of what their peer said. Many stems require students to use text evidence to support their thinking and comments.

In action in my classroom: 

My students know that one of my favorite classroom phrases is, "Keep the conversation going!" I have these stems on a bulletin board in my reading corner. Next to it, is an anchor chart with step-by-step directions on how to keep the conversation going. Here are the directions on the anchor chart:

  • Turn to face your partner.
  • Sit eye to eye and knee to knee.
  • Listen with attentive ears as your partner speaks.
  • Respond using a reading stem to keep the conversation going.
  • Repeat!

Students learn these stems quickly. I practice these right from the start of the school year using my favorite back-to-school read-alouds. You will notice after a few weeks of practice, students really do learn how to keep the conversation going!

These reading stems are especially useful for students who struggle to add their own thoughts to a conversation. Often times the conversation between readers can die off after one person makes a comment. By telling students to keep the conversation going, they know they need to bring that conversation back alive with one of the given reading stems!

2. Revisit Previously Read Books

Classroom Library

Using previously read picture books as a part of your reading routine is a great way to increase student participation and confidence.  In my classroom, this large bucket can be found in my reading corner. Any picture book that I have read aloud and that we have discussed and digested together goes into this previously read bucket. Since the students are already familiar with the books in this basket, it makes it easier for them to engage in discourse around the story. That is why many times I use books from this basket during mini-lessons, small group instruction, and during reading conferences.

In action in my classroom:

In addition to using these previously read books as a teaching tool, students are welcome to revisit any book in this bucket. When students reread books from this bucket they are increasing their fluency and comprehension. When struggling readers revisit books from this bucket they are increasing their confidence. There are so many benefits of having a bucket like this!

3. Focused Mid-Reading Break

Reading Talking Stems for Elementary

I have found that the best way to get students to engage in meaningful conversations with their peers about the books that they read is to give them a specific question to think about as they read. By telling them the question before they read, you are giving them a focus and a purpose. As students read, they take quick notes and ideas to be able to answer the proposed question through rich dialogue filled with examples from the text. When it is time to discuss the book and question with their reading partner they are armed with specific examples and notes and the reading stems to help them keep the conversation going!

In action in my classroom:  

During our reading block, we have a mid-reading break. Before students begin independently reading, I write a question on the board/chart paper. If we are in the middle of a character unit, the question might simply be: What character trait does the main character have? As the students read, they collect evidence to answer that question during the mid-reading break partner discussion. About halfway through reading, I stop the students, they get with their mid-reading break partner, and have a discussion about the character traits of the main character. They use both their notes and the reading stems to keep the conversation going! The kids love this time of the day and always look forward to it. After about five minutes, I stop the conversation and the kids head back out to finish their independent reading.

BONUS IDEA: Weekly Book Talks

If you want students to talk about the books that they are reading, then you need to carve time out of your day to make it happen! There are two ways that I include book talks in my classroom.

The first type of book talk we do takes place during morning meeting time. These morning book chats are optional, but so many students love signing up for them. Students sign up in advance to share a book that they are reading. I have specific guidelines so that students know what they need to say during their share. It is not a written response, but rather just a casual share of the book. After a few shares, the kids are always looking for an opening to share their book. We do these only once a week so the time slots go fast!

Book Talks and Chats for Upper Elementary Classrooms

The second type of book talk we do takes place once a week on Friday afternoons. Students who are presenting that week have all week to work on their book talk that they will be sharing. These are not optional. At the beginning of the year, students have the choice to create a print or digital book talk using the provided template. As the year moves on, all students complete the digital version, making this truly a no-prep activity! I love that this book talk strengthens students reading, listening, and presentation skills! The kids always look forward to Friday afternoons when they listen to each other's book talks!

Want to try out book talks in your classroom? Read this post to get started!

Book Talks for Upper Elementary

When it comes to engaging students in meaningful reading discourse, try some of these ideas! 

You will see a big increase in student confidence, participation rate, and overall reading comprehension! The more practice opportunities that you give students to engage in meaningful reading discourse, the more they will begin to put this into practice on their own.

Want to get started engaging students in meaningful conversations about the books they read? Grab this FREE book recommendation form and start today!

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Book Talks in Upper elementary classroom

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Book talks in upper elementary reading room

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