Small Groups, Big Discussions

Published Works


Novak, S. & Slattery, C. (2016). Deep Discourse: A framework for cultivating student-led discussions. ​Solution Tree
Houck, B. & Novak, S. (2016). Literacy Unleashed: Fostering excellent reading instruction through classroom visits. ASCD. 

Novak, S. (2014). Student-Led Discussions: How do I promote rich conversations about books, videos, and other media? ASCD.


Novak, S., & Slattery, C. (2017). Deep Discourse: Facilitating Student-Led Discussions. Solution Tree.


Novak, S., & Houck, B. Connect the heart and hands of literacy. The Learning Professional. 39(2), 46-50.

Houck, B. & Novak, S. (2017). Leading the way in literacy: Classroom visits offer a comprehensive view of teaching and learning. The Learning Professional. 38(5), 30-34.

Novak, S. & Houck, B. (2016). The view from the principal’s office: An observation protocol boosts literacy leadership. Journal of Staff Development. 37(2), 46-50, 56.

Summary: Minnesota principals use the literacy classroom visit to gather data on the status of literacy teaching and student learning, then draw on the data to discuss the strengths and needs of a school community using broad data patterns that focus on the school or district, not on individual teachers.


Novak, S. (2018). Bringing Discussions to a Close (Small Groups, Big Discussions Part 12).

Novak, S. & Houck, B. (2018). Literacy Unleashed: Six Ways to Implement Effective Literacy Change. ASCD Inservice.

Novak, S. (2018). Younger Students Can Lead Discussions Too (Small Groups, Big Discussions, Part 11)

Novak, S. (2017). Feed Students through Feedback (Small Groups, Big Discussions, Part 10).

Novak, S. (2017). How to Grade Small Group Discussions (Small Groups, Big Discussions, Part 9).

Novak, S. (2017). Response: 'Strong Structures' are Needed for Effective Classroom Discussions by Larry Ferlazzo. Education Week Teacher.

Novak, S. (2017). When and How Often Should Students Discuss? (Small Groups, Big Discussions Part 8).

Houck, B., & Novak, S. (2017). Response: We Need to Let Students 'Read, Read, Read' by Larry Ferlazzo. Education Week Teacher. 

Novak, S. (2017). Preparing for Student-Led Discussions. (Small Groups, Big Discussions Part 7). 

Novak, S. (2017). Setting the Stage for Student-Led Discussions. (Small Groups, Big Discussions Part 6). 

Novak, S. (2017). Preventing Off-Topic Discussions (Small Groups, Big Discussions Part 5). 

Novak, S. (2017). Classroom Discussion Challenge: When Students Don’t Do the Reading (Part 4 of Small Groups, Big Discussions). 

Novak, S. (2017). Giving Voice to All Students (Part 3 of Small Groups, Big Discussions). 

Novak, S. (2017). How to troubleshoot student-led discussions (Part 2 of Small Groups, Big Discussions)

Novak, S. (2017). Helping Students Ask Questions (Part 1 of Small Groups, Big Discussions)

Novak, S. and Houck, B. (2016). Cultivating a Schoolwide Independent Reading Culture. 

Novak, S. (2014). How to tackle student-led discussions


Giving Voice to All Students. How Providing Guidance and Using Protocols Propel Student Led Discussions

How can we support students that typically don’t speak up while assisting students that often monopolize the discussion? 

During this session, I will share processes and practices to help teachers pinpoint common challenges that may bog down student discussions; provide targeted strategies that increase students’ communication skills to ensure all students’ voices are heard. While I will lead this web event, it is an interactive session that calls on all attendees to participate. After reading the blog, Giving Voice to All Students, from the series, Small Groups, Big Discussions, come prepared with thought provoking questions to explore during this session.

Leading a Literacy Culture.  Educators can develop a culture of literacy in schools and classrooms that engage students in authentic learning that will make them better readers, writers, thinkers, and problem solvers. When students are engaged in authentic learning activities, explicitly taught and modeled by the teacher, they are carefully reading and rereading with clear purposes, thinking analytically, and evaluating their understanding of texts and ideas orally or in writing.

Teachers leading authentic learning opportunities in the classroom shift student engagement from passive compliance to deep engagement, where students take full ownership of their learning and display high levels of interest and willingness to pursue answers taking risks in their learning.


Developing a Schoolwide Independent Reading Culture. ASCD. Can be accessed at:


Check out this interview with Sandi Novak and Bonnie Houck, authors of Literacy Unleashed.