Meaningful Talk Part 2: Conversation Roundtable

The students once again take the reins in this dialogic-style lesson


As a reminder, we are exploring how we can incorporate reading, writing, listening, speaking, and thinking every day in our language arts classrooms. If you remember from the first installment, our students read the short story “The Most Dangerous Game” using the reciprocal teaching protocol. Now we are going to set up another opportunity for students to interact with each other about the reading in a protocol called the conversation roundtable.


The basic premise

The conversation roundtable is set up to have each student in a group of 4 share his/her thoughts on some part of the reading. While one student shares, the other students take notes on what that student is saying. After each student has shared, they discuss a common theme, message, etc. Their shared idea goes in the middle of the graphic organizer.


Lesson example

Here’s how it might be set up in a lesson dealing with “The Most Dangerous Game,” our mentor text for this unit. Today we will utilize 8th grade TEKS.


Quick-write Warm-up: Describe how the characters (Rainsford & Zaroff) act towards each other in the story. What is their relationship? What do they do during the story?


Pair-share – Students activate prior knowledge as they write and then share out their observations about the character and plot.


Big question for the day: So what is the author trying to tell us with this?


Learning intention: Students will analyze how themes are developed through the interaction of characters and events


Success criteria:

· Students will each share their thoughts in the conversation roundtable protocol

· The group of students will agree on one theme for the story “The Most Dangerous Game”

· Individually on an exit ticket, students will explain why they come up with their theme and support their answer with appropriate text evidence


Mini-lesson: Theme

After the mini-lesson, students each share their ideas about how they think the interaction of the characters and events illustrates the authors theme. Students will need to share examples of text evidence. The other students take notes. This will help them come up with their final theme.


Example of graphic organizer

After all students have shared, they students must come to a consensus on the theme.


Exit ticket: Students then individually write out their exit tickets, including text evidence.


The goal here is that the conversation has helped the students 1) identify a theme and 2) identify supporting text evidence.


Additional formative assessment: teachers can also collect the student notes, as well as listen to student conversation.


So how are the students…?

  • Reading: students will have to re-read parts of the text to identify the theme and locate text evidence

  • Writing: students write a quick-write, take notes, and then formulate a written answer on their exit tickets

  • Listening: students must not only listen to the teacher, but must listen to take notes over their fellow students observations

  • Speaking: students must share their own thoughts and analysis, as well as discuss the theme of the short story

  • Thinking: students must analyze, taking smaller parts of the story to make a generalization and identify the theme

This lesson addressed the following 8th grade ELAR TEKS:

  • 8.5F - Make inferences and use evidence to support understanding.

  • 8.5G - Evaluate details read to determine key ideas.

  • 8.6B - Write responses that demonstrate understanding of texts, including comparing sources within and across genres.

  • 8.6C - Use text evidence to support an appropriate response.

  • 8.6E - Interact with sources in meaningful ways such as notetaking, annotating, freewriting, or illustrating.

  • 8.6G - Discuss and write about the explicit or implicit meanings of text.

  • 8.6H - Respond orally or in writing with appropriate register, vocabulary, tone, and voice.

  • 8.7A - Analyze how themes are developed through the interaction of characters and events.

This lesson can also be the jumping off point to analytical writing or help students notice craft they will use in their own short stories.


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“The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell is available in the public domain.

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