Communicating and interacting with others

As students create their own texts, they continue to interact with others.

They draw on a range of talk strategies to make choices about their own use of verbal language to express ideas and key concepts to develop and defend arguments.

They also learn how to promote a point of view by designing, rehearsing and delivering spoken and written presentations and by appropriately selecting and sequencing linguistic and multimodal elements.

Reciprocal teaching activities provide structured approaches to interaction that scaffold students towards transforming and presenting their knowledge of texts and the world.

Literacy in Practice Video: English - Literature Circles

In this video year 9 students engage in a deeper understanding of the text in a Literature Circle through different roles such as Real-Life Connector, Discussion director and vocabulary expert. Students deconstruct the text through these roles to support their critical thinking, discussions and deeper understanding of the text.

Read the in-depth notes for this video. The stimulus text for the lesson was The Happiest Refugee.

Literature circles (reading and viewing, speaking and listening)

Literature circles:

  • can be heterogeneous groups formed around students’ interests
  • student selected text
  • focus on higher level thinking skills: such as author’s intent, writing style, characterisation
  • teacher is more of a facilitator/observer/encourager.

Literature circles provide students with opportunities to identify and discuss the main ideas, concepts and points of view in the texts of the English classroom.

To do so, Daniels (2002) outlines the following role descriptions for literature circles:

  • Discussion Director: to develop a list of questions that will facilitate group conversations.
  • Literary Luminary: to locate sections of the text the group would like to hear read aloud.
  • Illustrator: to draw some kind of picture related to the reading.
  • Connector: to find connections or links between the book and something outside the text.
  • Summariser: to prepare a brief summary of the day’s reading.
  • Vocabulary enricher: to locate important or unusual words that appear in the text.
  • Travel Tracer: to track the action that takes place in a story and record as a diagram or map.
  • Investigator: to find out some background information about the book.

Supports or structures can be provided to students to assist them to engage in meaningful discussions about a text. For example, teachers can provide question prompts, or jointly construct these with students, to scaffold and guide discussions in literature circles.

Peer editing process (reading and viewing, speaking and listening)

The writers’ workshop approach (Graves, 1994) adopts a method that gives students greater choice in their writing, as students determine the topics, purposes and audiences for their own writing.

They write multiple drafts, talk with peers and their teacher to get feedback before writing a final copy that is shared with the intended audience. One of the important tenets of this method is providing time for students to talk to each other about their ideas and about the effectiveness of their writing.

Peer editing is usually the most common form of peer interaction during writing classes where students have a clear understanding about the expectations of the process. Therefore, the role of joint construction and opportunities for shared writing are vital parts of effective writing instruction.

This is reflected in the Victorian Curriculum F–10: English F-10 (VCAA), which states that “writing is an active process of conceiving, planning, composing, editing and publishing a range of texts” and students learn to “edit for meaning and effect by refining ideas, reordering sentences, adding or substituting words for clarity, and removing repetition” (VCAA, n.d.)

The emphasis on peer collaboration and conferencing underscores the importance of talking and writing. This is also known as ‘oral rehearsal’ where students formulate, clarify, modify, communicate and reflect upon their own learning through talk (Myhill & Jones, 2009).

Peer editing can be enacted as part of collaboration (HITS Strategy 5) or conferencing. It can be an oral process by which verbal feedback is provided by peers or it can be a written process where peers must provide written feedback.

Written feedback (HITS Strategy 8) is often completed on a checklist that outlines the focus for the feedback, clarity around the process as well as the goals and expectations of students. The structure and features of the checklist will contribute to the quality and effectiveness of the feedback provided.

Using a peer editing checklist

A peer editing checklist provides students with a clear set of guidelines about how to respond to a peer-written piece of work. The checklist may be adapted according to the type of feedback required and the form of writing being edited.

Checklists support the teaching of the following content descriptions: VCELY388, VCELY450, VCELY480.

Peer editing checklist

Peer Editing Checklist
Checklist itemsTick when viewedComments and suggestions
I read the author’s piece aloud to see where to stop or pause for full stops, commas, question marks and exclamation marks
Sentences are complete thoughts that contain a noun and a verb.
I can identify the topic sentence.
There is evidence to support each point that is made.
Quotation marks have been included for dialogue and quotes.

Reciprocal teaching (reading and viewing, speaking and listening)

Reciprocal teaching was developed by Palinscar and Brown in 1985 to improve decoding and reading comprehension of secondary school students. It is a structured strategy that supports students to interact with one another to reflect on, discuss and explore the various texts they engage with in English.

Students work in groups of four students, taking on one of four roles:

  • Predictor: predicts what will happen in the text or what the text is about from what is already known from the text structure or from the text features.
  • Clarifier: clarifies “unfamiliar vocabulary, challenging concepts, awkward structure, unclear referent words, idiomatic expressions” (Palinscar, 2003, p.370).
  • Questioner: asks questions about the text that cover the three levels of questioning: literal, inferential and evaluative.
  • Summariser: provides a summary of the main ideas of the text.

While efficient readers perform all of these roles when reading, each role should be modelled and scaffolded separately before reciprocal teaching is used in the classroom. See further advice about the implementation of reciprocal reading.

Literacy in Practice Video: English - Reciprocal Teaching

In this video, Brendan Tuckerman's Year 8 English lesson using reciprocal teaching. Students in this video have been reading a range of Indigenous texts from across Australia. This lesson aims to make explicit the skills strong readers employ when reading: predict, summarise, clarify and question. The class has a high proportion of EAL/D students.

Teacher prompts

  • How do you support your students to read, write, listen and talk to develop knowledge building and understanding in your classroom?
  • How do you plan and prepare your lessons to ensure diverse learners can meet the complex literate demands of reading in your classroom?

Socratic dialogue (reading and viewing, writing, speaking and listening)

Based on Socrates’ use of dialogue to encourage his pupils to think for themselves, Socratic discussions allow students to engage in discussions to share, reflect on, clarify and evaluate opinions and arguments about texts and issues. There is no set way of conducting a Socratic discussion, other than to include open-ended questions to inspire thinking. Students should jointly construct rules and expectations for the discussions to ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak and be heard.

Socratic discussions involve students in higher order thinking, encourage students to reflect and critique and allow multiple perspectives to be examined, in a supportive and collaborative environment (Copeland, 2005).

The process below describes how a Socratic discussion might be used in a Year 8 class towards the end of an English unit that addressed the theme of migration (VCELT425, VCELY426, VCELY427)

Literacy in Practice Video: English - Socratic Dialogue

In this video, the teacher is supporting students to gather thoughts and ideas in response to their annotated stimulus text “The Simple Gift”. Once students extrapolate annotations to bigger ideas students form small group circles and engage in Socratic discussions.

Read the in-depth notes for this video

Socratic dialogue in practice

  1. An open-ended question is posed before the process begins:
    • “Australia has become a place where people from all over the world choose to settle. What do you think about migration to Australia?”

  2. Text annotation
  3. Students are redirected to some of the texts read and viewed about experiences of migration. These may include:

    • short stories
    • picture books
    • newspaper reports
    • visual images
    • multimodal and non-fiction texts.

    Students make notes from the texts with the open-ended question in mind. They can also note comments that they might wish to use in the group discussion.

  4. Preparing for the discussion
  5. A list of sentence starters may be provided to students to scaffold how they can frame and enter into the discussion.

    Rules for the discussion can also be jointly constructed with students at this stage. For example:

    • students may only be able to speak for a maximum of 1 minute at a time
    • no interrupting people
    • no deriding or negative comments about what people say.
  6. The socratic discussion
  7. Students sit in a circle so that all members can see and respond to each other. The open-ended question is restated. Using their notes as support, students enter the discussion responding to the initial question.

    As students listen to one another, they can ask questions for clarification or to press students, or revise their notes as they hear new evidence and ideas from their peers.

    The teacher’s role is that of observer. They should not participate in the discussion unless it gets off-track.

    An example Socratic discussion for the above prompt might be:

    Student 1: My point of view is that Australia is a better place as a result of many forms of migration. Many of my friends are the children of migrants and they are all good people. What do other people think?

    Student 2: I disagree with that. I think migration can cause risks to the community.

    Student 1: What do you mean?

    Student 2: Migrants can take our jobs. I read a newspaper article that said unemployment in Victoria was increasing and so if we let more people live here, there would be fewer jobs for us who are here already.

    Student 3: I’d like to build on what student 2 said. Some groups of people don’t like to live in a multicultural community. They can feel scared and afraid.

    Student 1: Can you explain what you mean by some groups being scared?

    Student 3: Well … you know, other groups of people might make you feel uncomfortable. Or they could be violent. Remember that news report we watched? It was about gangs.

    Student 4: Yeah, but that was racist. We spoke about how the program was presenting those groups of young people in a bad way. And think of our school. Our school has students from all types of backgrounds. Does anyone feel scared here?

    Student 5: And, if Australia had not experience many forms of migration, we would not have the mix of people that we do.

  8. Reflection
  9. After a Socratic discussion, students are asked to write about the topic or reflect upon the discussion.

    Reflecting upon the discussion could include a self-reflection about their own participation.

    • What were my contributions to the group?
    • How did I move the dialogue on?
    • Who responded to what I said?
    • What questions did I present and how did others respond?
    • How confident was I during the discussion?
    • How did I feel about the topic?
    • How did the dialogue change my thinking?

    Alternatively, the Socratic discussion could be used as a before writing strategy to support students to develop a persuasive or argumentative text.


Copeland, M. (2005). Socratic circles fostering critical and creative thinking. Portland, MN: Stenhouse Publishers.

Daniels, H. (2002). Literature circles: Voice and choice in book clubs and reading groups. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Graves, D. H. (1994). A fresh look at writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Palinscar, A. S. (2013). Reciprocal teaching. In J. Hattie and E. M. Anderson (Eds.), International Guide to Student Achievement (pp. 369–371). New York: Routledge.

Palinscar, A. S., &Brown, A.L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction, 1(2), 117–175.

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA). (n.d.). English structure.