This book is written for those who value collaborative inquiry, open-ended questions, and student-centered classroom discourse. Leading student-centered discussions is natural for some people and not-so-natural for others. The teacher's role is more than following a set protocol or asking a series of questions. Like much of teaching, leading a discussion falls somewhere between science, art, and magic as the facilitator faces a constant stream of decisions based on ever-changing student behavior.
This book is a model for text-based discussions and provides a framework to make decisions that lead to student-centered conversations focused on the understanding of ideas. The book is divided into three sections. The first is for teachers new to student-centered discussions and describes the "science" of leading a discussion: the basic elements of student-centered, text-based discussions, and how to plan for them. The second delves into the "art" and "magic" of leading discussions and provides a framework for making decisions during discussions as the conversation develops. The third section offers a rich collection of strategies for problem-solving when discussions aren't going well and to guide the reader toward continuous improvement of facilitation skills. The book's decision-making framework stresses safety, authentic participation, challenge, and ownership, all of which will help teachers move from a basic level of understanding of discussion facilitation skills to a deepened understanding of the discussion process and the teacher's role within it.