Often a structured format helps bring everyone's voice into the conversation. Here are some suggestions:


A whip can be done at any point or multiple times in the discussion. Go around the circle and each person talks for less than a minute. Other participants listen and can respond after the whip has made a full circle.
Whip questions for beginning of the discussion:
  • How did you like the book?
  • How did you respond to a certain character?
  • What did you care most about in the book?
  • Describe your level of understanding.
Whip questions for the middle of the discussion:
  • How did you respond to a plot event?
  • What passage(s) made an impact on you?
  • What points already said do you agree or disagree with?
Whip questions for the end of the discussion:
  • What comment made today most affected your thinking?
  • What have you learned most about the book/the issues raised by the book today?
  • What questions still linger for you?

Ten Words or Less

This can be done as individuals or in pairs.
  • On your own or with one partner, summarize the book in ten words or less. Give everyone three minutes.
  • Share the summaries: the writer reads the summary and another participant asks a question or makes a comment in response to that summary. The writer responds and talk can open from there. Move to the next summary.
  • Commit to each summary earning one comment or question from another participant.

Leveled Questions

Works well when you find a particularly rich detail or plot event that participants seem eager to discuss.
Everyone composes three questions about the episode on his/her own:
  • Factual: A question that can be answered with the text; Ex: What time of day does this event happen?
  • Interpretive: A question with multiple answers,but answered with the text; Ex: Why does a character choose a certain course of action?
  • Evaluative: A question that includes something outside the text; Ex: Does the situation remind you of a world event?
Go through all the factual questions, then interpretive, then evaluative. Let conversation move freely from the responses. Be aware of the time. Check the group’s desire to move onto to another episode or keep talking about this one.

Passage Path

Try this if you’ve talked with your books closed for a while. It is helpful to use the language of the book as a way to open a discussion.
  • Everyone should refresh their memory of passages they've marked as important in the text.
  • One person starts by bringing the group to a passage that felt significant. He or she briefly explains why the passage feels important.
  • The rest of the group should be thinking about other passages that compares or contrasts (for any reason) to the original. When a participant feels she has one, direct the rest of the group members to the page number and read the passage aloud. The participant explains the connection to the first passage; others can contribute.
  • Repeat #2 until as many passages have been brought up as there are participants in the group, or for a small group, go around twice. Feel free to make connections to passages discussed earlier.
  • Be aware not to but undue pressure on individuals with this protocol, but work together to find and explain the connections between the passages.

Another Point of View

Works to extend a discussion about a passage that the group seems eager to discuss and gets participants looking specifically at the text.
  • Choose a scene or longer passage that is ripe for discussion.
  • Together, examine how the story is narrated. Describe the narrator’s position, level of power, and tone. Open discussion for three minutes or until you’ve covered it.
  • After you feel content with the discussion in #2, re-examine the scene from another character’s or narrator’s point of view, especially a person who has a different level of power than the narrator.
  • Discuss the scene/passage openly from both points of view.