One of my favourite strategies to get students to think critically about text is a “gallery walk.” Students form groups to discuss a topic and record their ideas on a piece of chart paper. I give them markers and instruct them to write their response, ideas and/or quotations in an organized manner, so readers can follow their thought process.
When they finish, we post the chart paper at various locations in the classroom, leaving enough room so groups can gather around each sheet. Groups will appoint a “tour guide” to stay with their sheet and the rest of the group moves clockwise to the next sheet.
The next step is for them to read the responses on the poster they have moved to, aided by the tour guide from the group that created it. Students will then add new points and/or questions on post it notes that they will add to the chart paper.
The tour guide will go back to the group and send a new person to act as guide for the next rotation. Groups repeat the process until they have been to each sheet.
Once we have completed the process, I bring them all together to wrap things up, to get them to come to a conclusion about the original question posed. By the time we have our full class discussion, they have fleshed out a lot of ideas, and debated points with each other.
The gallery walks work well for a number of reasons. First, all students need to contribute, not just the usual keeners who want to answer every question. The dialogue, then, is between everyone, and not just the teacher and a handful of students. And because they are instructed to add points to each poster they visit, they need to work on fully developing ideas, not just skating across the surface of them. Finally, the kids get a chance to get up and move around, rather than sitting at their desks all period!