I Tried It and It Worked!
Professional development by you and for you
For an in depth look at the strategy in action, check out this blog post: https://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/first-efforts-at-written-conversations-strategies-write-around-text-on-text/ or read The Best-Kept Teaching Secret: How Written Conversations Engage Kids, Activate Learning, and Grow Fluent Writers K-12 by Harvey Daniels and Elaine Daniels.
I found the silent conversation activity which AP Language did around selections from the summer reading book to be a good way to spark conversation with our students around some main ideas of characterization. It allowed students to move around the room and participate without any performance pressure about what they were going to say. It was also a relatively painless activity for me, as I got to peruse what students thought as they moved around and ask questions about the ones that fascinated me. In the end, I took this as a participation grade and we used their work as a springboard into a larger project that they completed. It was a day well spent in AP Language and Composition.
For the silent conversation activity, students were asked to read a short excerpt from one of the three summer reading novels. Afterwards, they were asked to respond on a Post-It note by explaining what they thought the excerpt revealed about the main character for that particular book. It was designed to get students to think more deeply about each character before they worked in groups to create their scripts and wrote their rationales. I assessed it as a participation grade.
I would concur with Michael: this low-stress activity broke the typical discussion paradigm, allowed students to contribute their own thoughts, and enabled them to hear from or respond to their classmates' thoughts. As the teacher, I was able to get a big picture sense of students' understanding of each character, and I could address any misunderstandings as needed. My feedback from students was positive.
The Best-Kept Teaching Secret: How Written Conversations Engage Kids, Activate Learning, Grow Fluent Writers K-12 by Harvey "Smokey" Daniels and Elaine Daniels
"First Efforts at Written Conversation Strategies: Write-Around Text on Text" by Darrell Cicchetti, Jennifer Lund, and Buffy Hamilton