Discussion questions are a great idea to kick off a short story unit, but the participation of my students has been lackluster with the traditional format. Enter a fast and fun discussion activity based on the speed dating concept. This will be my go-to activity on Halloween with a spooky Edgar Allan Poe story.
Every student participates, and the stakes are low for exploring the answers to questions because they are working one-on-one with each other for short periods of time. It gets students up and moving, a rare thing when studying literature. Below are the rules of the activity. You'll have to make cards with discussion questions, or if you want to save time and check out mine for Poe's The Black Cat, click here.
1. Arrange students in one of the following ways:
A. Have students form two circles, one inside the other, with an equal number of students in each. Have students face each other.
B. Have students stand in two equal lines, facing each other.
(If you have an odd number of students, you can participate or rotate one student out each round.)
2. Divide the cards evenly among one line or one circle of students.
3. Start a timer for two minutes. The student with the cards reads the question from the first card, and then the students facing each other discuss the question.
4. When two minutes are up, have the circle or line of students without cards rotate to the left (for a line, have the last person come to the front of a line). The students with the cards will put the used question at the bottom of their pile.
5. Repeat process for about 10 rounds, or as time permits.
If a student gets asked a duplicate question, the student with the cards skips to a new question.
This activity is perfect for starting a unit, or as a stand-alone activity. I'll be using "The Black Cat" this year on Halloween, as Poe is the master of combining spooky and gruesome. The psychology of the narrator and the symbols throughout leave a lot of room for spirited discussion. Another favorite is "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce.