Saturday, January 07, 2006

Lead A Book Discussion in Four Easy Steps!

Leading a book discussion can be a profound experience for both the leader and participants. If you have decided to undertake the role of leader/facilitator, the following article will assist you in asking a series of questions to elicit responses that will take your group from the surface of a topic to its depth implications for their lives.

When the group gathers for the first time, introduce the book and set some context for the discussion. Why is it important that this discussion take place at this time? What do participants hope to get out of the discussion? What should be the ground rules of the discussion? Open these questions to the group and they will do the work for you. If a flipchart is available, document the responses.

It's also good idea to have the group come up with, and agree to, the structure and schedule of the book discussion. The group's availability to meet as well as the size of the book may determine how often you will meet and how many chapters are to be read by each meeting. Participants who give input to create this schedule will be more likely to attend consistently.

At this first meeting, distribute the book, and assign the chapter readings for the next meeting.

The next time you gather, the group will have read the assigned chapter(s) and will be ready to discuss. However, to keep the discussion from wandering around without getting anywhere, it is the leader's job to guide the conversation. The following four levels of questioning (as well as sample questions) give you the tools to provide a meaningful experience for your group:

1. The Objective Level--Questions about facts and external reality

What words, lines or phrases from the reading do you remember?
Which were the most striking for you?
What caught your attention?

2. The Reflective Level--Questions to call forth immediate personal reaction to the data, an internal response, sometimes emotions or feelings, hidden images and associations with the facts. When ever we encounter an external reality (data/objective) we experience an internal response.

What pictures came into your mind as you read the material?
What events or stories from the past come to mind as you read this?
What surprised you?
What feelings did you have as you read?
Where did you most identify with the reading?
Where did the reading go beyond your comfort zone?
Where do you have the most difficulty with the material?

3. The Interpretive Level--Questions to draw out meaning, values, significance and implications

What is going on in this chapter?
What would you say are the underlying issues?
How might people be different after reading this?
What is the message here?
What is the significance for our lives?

4. The Decisional Level--Questions to elicit resolution, bring the conversation to a close and enable the group to make a resolve about the future.

Who do you feel needs to hear this?
What does it suggest we need to change?
How will this affect our actions in the future?


Follow this easy method at each meeting, and you are sure to create a healthy, participatory and learning environment for your group. Good Luck, and Enjoy!

  • Email Me With Questions About This Method!


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