Research proves that kids are more engaged and learn from each other when they are encouraged to discuss text they are reading. I know it is often hard to let go of the reins, but students of all ages are capable of discussing ideas and concepts contained in text.
One of the first things we did in our classroom was to set group norms for text discussion. Students brainstormed and created "rules" for being a respectful speaker and listener. Each group member selected a rule, then wrote and illustrated the rule on a note card. These were hung on one sheet of anchor chart paper to use as a visual reference. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of this.
We practiced our norms, using modeling and role play. We selected topics that provided plenty of opportunities for discussion. These could be simple conversations such as "What did you have for dinner?" or "What is your favorite after school activity?" You want to provide open ended topics, and model how to respond and keep the conversation going. I suggested asking if they helped prepare the meal, etc. These authentic topics assist the kids in learning to ask and answer questions in a natural setting.
Another tip for encouraging turn taking is to provide a hands on manipulative. I purchased these balls on Amazon. The student with the ball is the one who is speaking, while the other student/s listen. These were very engaging, and I could easily see how conversations shifted as the balls changed hands. I've included an affiliate link below.
Provide plenty of opportunities for talking and working with text. Use Kagan strategies, CRISS Strategies (think, pair, share), and authentic tasks that require discussions about text.
We are working on comparing and contrasting informational text. As a small group we created an anchor chart comparing and contrasting what we do when using this skill with fiction vs. informational text, read and discussed an informational passage as pairs, then each pair of students discussed and created their own Venn Diagram. Using sticky notes and markers really gets that engagement going!
Providing sentence starters is a great way to get the conversations going. I have some sentence starters for literature in my TeachersPayTeachers Store. I hope to work on some for informational text soon! If you are interested simply click HERE.
(Note: this post contains an affiliate link which does not add any cost to you.)