3 Ways to Kill a Discussion

Literature Club for children 7-17 is an opportunity to explore ideas in a safe environment. To enjoy great discussions, we must learn to avoid three discussion killers.

Discussion Killer #1 – Presenting yourself as an expert

If you are an expert, logically others are not. Think of a time when you were in the presence of an expert: science teacher, conference leader, successful writer, or Sunday school teacher. How did you feel? Were you willing to express your ideas or were you afraid to ask questions fearing your questions would sound silly or maybe were unnecessary? If you are leading the discussions in your book club, you might know more about a given book than the others. This puts a greater burden on you to present yourself as an equal to the group if you want the discussions in your group to grow in depth and richness.

  • Tell the group you don’t know all there is to know about literature or this particular book.
  • View their research and ideas as more valuable than your own. You don’t need to share yours unless they haven’t any to share. You are not a teacher imparting knowledge about a book. Your job is to stimulate the sharing of information and ideas. Critical thinking grows in this environment.

Discussion Killer # 2 – Rejecting an idea

 “You’re idea is …..” When I hear these words I prepare myself for feedback. The idea in a discussion group is to get free flowing conversation going. If you’re bracing yourself each time someone speaks, the tension caused by this approach puts a strain on the group.

Start your comments like this:

  • Wow, I haven’t thought of it in that way. Tell me more.
  • I can tell you really paid attention to the details of the plot. I can’t remember that part of the story. Tell me more so I can really understand what you’re thinking.

Discussion Killer # 3 – Ridiculing a group member

At the very first meeting, show the children the stern side of yourself this one and only time and say, “I have one rule set in stone for this group– * Long Pause * “We never, ever, ever, ever laugh or make fun of each other in this group.” Set a good example buy showing genuine interest in every child during the discussions. They will follow your lead. This one rule makes all the difference in the world. Over time, even the most reluctant participant will share his thoughts.


You can kill a discussion group by presenting yourself as an expert. The group will not grow in critical thinking skills if ideas are squashed or if people are ridiculed. To create a group where everyone grows in friendship, thinking and communication skills you must set a loving and accepting example.

How can I help you enjoy your discussions? Send me a message with your questions. I would love to help you get started.

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  1. I wish I could remember these better! You are right though it opens up conversation very well. 🙂

    I know I accept the teacher-student role pretty quickly if the one leading the discussion doesn't pause for ideas. Not too long ago, I attended a workshop on speaking and not once did the speaker invite others to share their stories. I didn't have anything to share, but I knew there were some experienced speakers in the group who I could have learned from. I was disappointed, to say the least. It seemed like the speaker (speaking on effective communication!) was frightened of their expertise, which, in my opinion, made her look small.

  2. Great thoughts, Ali! I have a hard time with the first one, because I always want them to get the RIGHT answer. However, that wouldn’t encourage their critical thinking skills at all. You’re very right in that it’s important to LEAD the discussion and guide their minds, instead of just lecturing. That would be a literature CLASS, not a club.

    • Thanks for the affirmation, Christy. I find it to be a lot more fun to facilitate than teach. The things the kids come up with are far more interesting than anything I can cook up for them.

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