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Conversation Roundtable


This activity helps students to visually and cognitively organize the different ways in which a poem reflects and comments upon a given theme. Through the use of a graphic organizer, students make explicit the implicit connections they may draw between related aspects of the text.


Catherine Ullman-Shade

Learning Strategies 

  • Synthesizing
  • Visualizing
Analyzing Theme, Note Taking

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Speaking

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline
  • Staircase of Complexity
  • Text-Based Answers


Create a copy of a Conversational Roundtable graphic organizer for each student. A simple web search will turn up many examples if you are unfamiliar with this graphic organizer. Make sure each student has a copy of the target text.

Activity Steps 
  1. Each student reads a short text, or reviews a previously read text.

    This activity can be performed individually or in groups. The decision to group or not should depend on choosing the manner that allows students to both concentrate on and comprehend text most effectively.

  2. Students identify a key theme from each text, and write it in the center of their graphic organizer.

    If students haven’t had much exposure to theme, they will need at least one mini-lesson and a modeling of this activity before they will be prepared to work independently. This activity can also be performed as a group activity with increased teacher modeling and guidance if students require more scaffolding.

  3. Students identify different aspects or components of the theme, and they put these in the four boxes surrounding the center circle. Then, they find key words, lines, events, and details from the text that illustrate each of these aspects and they list the

    Some examples: if the theme is “growing up,” the boxes could include aspects such as “leaving home,” “finding an occupation,” “defining yourself,” and “separating from your family.” Students will benefit from seeing at least one model of this graphic organizer being completed, and then a completed version, before they do it themselves.

  4. Students use their completed graphic organizers to write a paragraph or essay analyzing the identified theme in the text. The theme they identified should appear in the thesis of their writing, and the identified details should support the main idea.

    The difficulty of this assignment can be adapted greatly according to the ability of the students. Less-skilled students can write a single paragraph, where each of the four corners of the graphic organizer is converted into a single detail sentence. More sophisticated students can write an essay, and very sophisticated students can be expected to evaluate and comment upon the theme, rather than simply identifying and supporting it.

Downloadable Resources 
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