Written Conversations

One of the things that I did this year that was successful in getting the kids to dig a little deeper into what they were reading was a "Written Conversation".

I got this idea from the book Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading. I have been using it quite a bit to help ease me into this idea of "close reading" and I am loving it!  It is definitely a higher level book, as it is written for middle school, so I wouldn't recommend it for anything lower than 5th.  But I am enjoying using it for sure!

The strategy is very simple.  First, the students are grouped into pods of 3 or 4 children.  The students are all given the same article to read.  They annotate that article (if you choose to have them do so...I do) and then take 3 minutes to write down a response.  This response could be questions they have about the article, aha moments that came up, or just ideas about things in the article that they annotated about.

Next, in a counterclockwise manner, the students pass on the writing that they just did.  Given another three minutes, the kids now have to read what their classmate wrote and respond back to them.  They could be answering questions, agreeing/disagreeing with what was written, piggybacking on it, or creating new questions based on the first response.

Another pass happens, and for three minutes, the students now respond to the previous two discussions.  Again, this response could take the form of anything that actually connects to what has been said by the previous two writers.

This continues until all group members have responded to all papers.

Then, I have the students discuss points that they read/wrote about in the "written discussion".
The second paragraph is actually talking about the article itself, not the student ahead of it (which we found out during the discussion!)  This is a good reason to have the actual verbal discussion after the written one.
What I like about this strategy is that the students are forced to really "listen" to what their classmates are saying.  They can't just shout out their own ideas and be done.  The conversations must match what is being said on the paper.  I also like how children who are a bit more shy get equal air time in this type of discussion.  They don't have to shout to be heard.  It also lets the students validate their own ideas before a big class discussion in a relatively safe manner.

Using this strategy has also helped my students be a bit more succinct and clear in their own written responses.  Since they have to communicate their ideas through written word only, it forces them to make sure what they are writing makes sense.

So, that is pretty much that!  What reading strategies have you used to help get your students more engaged in discussion?


  1. Stephanie such a great activity! We've done a lot of annotating this year and they've worked in groups to discuss and so forth. But I love how you have the students responding to the article and then to each other. I will definitely be trying this strategy out next year. Thanks for sharing!
    Fifth Grade Wit and

  2. A conversation on paper ... I LOVE it ... listening with intention ... responding with purpose. So awesome. Thank you for your inspiration and for sharing its success with us!

  3. GREAT IDEA! Thank you for sharing it!! :)

  4. Thanks so much for your comments ladies!

  5. Thank you! Just pinned this idea for guided reading next year.


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