By September 15, 2012 2 Comments Read More →

Facilitator Discussion Topic: Shifting Gears

Last week a colleague of mine from one of our branches attended my book group’s discussion of Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists. It was a lively discussion and the book of connected short stories provided plenty to talk about; in fact, we could have used more time to cover all of the book’s characters and themes.

Afterward my colleague and I talked about our different practices in facilitation. She asked me some questions that made me think about what has become habit for me in terms of preparation and leading discussion. Her questions for me and her sharing of her own practice all made me think and reconsider what I might do next time.

She asked me how I choose the first question to start discussion. This time I started with the title of the book; I admitted that sometimes I do this for lack of a better opening gambit while acknowledging that it can be a good place to start. She said that she often would provide some kind of flow-chart or visual representation of the book on the white board ahead of time–a list of characters and their relationships or timelines, etc. We talked about the ways in which book group members look to you as an authority of sorts and the pros and cons of this default viewpoint; do our words and viewpoints carry more weight? While I ask the group to save their loved it/hated it comments until the end of discussion she said her group always ended discussion by going around the table to share their personal verdicts.

I will be attending my colleague’s book group for more ideas to see what might work for me and my group.

What are some of your common practices? How often do you step back to review or try new methods or approaches?

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

2 Comments on "Facilitator Discussion Topic: Shifting Gears"

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  1. Hi.
    I’m an English and Literature teacher in Porto Alegre, a town in the south of Brazil. Every time I prepare a class with a book discussion, I have the same questions. The things you wrote will help me in some aspects. Thanks for your comments and information.

  2. heykaren@sbcglobal.net' Karen Ehlers says:

    As the so-called ‘leader’ of bookclub, I try to keep the conversation organic. I use the Table Topics for bookclub – which everyone loves. The questions are not specific but still generate a good amount of conversation and sometimes a good amount of controversy. It’s always the books that you don’t think will generate a lot of conversation that we end up talking about for 3 hours. Hello, “World War Z”? Who’d a thunk it?

    When the conversation strays too far off topic, I just reign it back in by suggesting the next member read his/her question card. That seems to settle them back to conversation about the book. We have a tendency to stray into other books, movies and TV.

    I like the idea of first talking about the title. This is why I love your blog!

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