As the last segment in a three-part series on maximizing reading group discussion, this post reviews how to end the conversation–and the meeting–on the right note. (New to the series? Read the first two installments here and here.) Asking the right questions at the end of the meeting not only will bring the discussion to a productive close, but it also will encourage participants to return to the next gathering. How so? The “right” concluding questions will create excitement about the discoveries generated during the meeting itself as well as those that might be made the next time around. The last questions, then, essentially act as an endorsement for continued participation.
(1) If had to pick three keywords describing today’s discussion, what would they be? [After soliciting feedback from a few individuals, return to each respondent and ask, “why did you select those words?”] As an alternative to this question, you could ask: If a friend (husband, etc.) asked what we talked about today, how would you respond in three words or less? [Don’t forget to follow-up with respondents by asking why they selected those particular words.]
(2) Which opinion(s) about the text did you reconsider the most in light of this discussion, and what changed your mind?
“Like” and “Dislike,” Turbo-Charged
(3) Did you like [character, conclusion, etc.]? Why was [character, conclusion, etc.] compelling?
(4) What wasn’t compelling about [author’s characterization of X, description of Y, narration of Z]? Why did you feel unsatisfied?
Making Connections with Previous Material
(5) What would character A (from a previously discussed novel) say to character B (from the novel currently under discussion) if they met in a bar (on a blind date, at a wedding, etc.)? Why do you think this? [This question has endless possibilities — just be creative!]
What makes these approaches effective “closers” for discussion?
Well, quite simply: they’re easy. They quickly provoke responses from discussion participants, either because they specifically ask for brief responses (i.e., “three” keywords) or encourage respondents to voice an opinion. Moreover, the questions are low-pressure in that they don’t necessarily have one “right” answer. Because the five strategies I outlined can be answered somewhat effortlessly, they will generate continuous dialogue, action, and excitement during the wrap-up phase of discussion. As a result, participants likely will leave the meeting with a favorable view of reading group.
Importantly, although the questions are “easy,” they nevertheless encourage participants to reflect critically or meaningfully on the text and/or the group’s discussion of it. As you’ve probably seen, I’ve paired each question with a brief follow-up query that invites the respondent to consider the motivation or reasoning behind his or her response.