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Lesson Plan

Thoughtful Threads: Sparking Rich Online Discussions

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Thoughtful Threads: Sparking Rich Online Discussions

Grades 5 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Seven 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lotta C. Larson, Ph.D.

Lotta C. Larson, Ph.D.

Manhattan, Kansas


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology






  • Computers with Internet access

  • Classroom computer with projection capability (for demonstration)

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1. Divide the class into groups of 4 to 6 students. Consider students' prior experience, interests, and reading levels, as each reader will contribute unique perspectives to the discussions.

2. Identify a selection of appropriate book titles that will spark discussion and elicit deep literature response. You'll need 4 to 6 copies needed of each title; see Suggested Books for ideas. Each literature circle group will choose a title during Session 1.

3. Schedule the seven lesson sessions, allowing 1 to 2 days between lessons for reading and online discussion.

4. Make a copy for each student of the Reading Schedule, Creating Prompts, Student Progress Report, and Student Self Reflection. Make one copy for each group of the Transcript Group Reflection.

5. Review your district's technology policy and guidelines. If needed, obtain consent for participation in online discussions from students' parents or guardians.

6. Familiarize yourself with the suggested online discussion platforms and their functions. Also explore other options, such as the message board functions of Blackboard (if your local district uses this software) or similar communication tools. Choose the platform that is most appropriate for your class, taking into consideration the following:
  • Your choice should reflect both the technology guidelines of your school and the resources of your students. If students do not have home Internet access, all discussion activities will need to take place on school computers. If you want students to engage in online discussion after school hours, you will need to use a platform they can access from home, such as PBWorks or ePals.

  • The lesson makes use of discussion board statistics such as length and number of posts, so you may wish to choose a platform that tracks these numbers automatically. These include Blackboard or Moodle, which is a free course management system that can be used for asynchronous message board discussions.
7. Set up an online discussion forum for your class on your chosen software platform, creating a separate message board (or wiki page, or email list) for each literature group. If required by the software, create accounts and generate passwords for students.

8. Identify relevant vocabulary used in describing online discussions (thread, post, reply, asynchronous, etc.). You will introduce and define these terms for students during Session 2.

9. For each book you have selected for the lesson, prepare a broad discussion prompt specific to that title. Post each prompt on the appropriate area of your online discussion platform. These teacher-created prompts will be used during Session 2 to model and initiate the online discussion process for students, prior to having them create their own prompts.

10. Reserve your school's computer lab or mobile computer carts for Sessions 2, 3, and 4. If necessary, reserve additional time on school computers for assigned literature discussions following Sessions 2, 3, 5, and 6. Arrange for access to a computer with projection capability for Sessions 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7.

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