Teaching Strategy

What Would They Say

Community Inquiry
Grade Level


A discussion strategy that asks students to infer how a particular author or character from a text would respond to questions and scenarios. Students must defend their conclusions using evidence from the text.


During or after reading


This strategy requires students to use higher-order thinking skills. Analyzing how two or more texts address a similar theme or topic helps students build knowledge and compare ideas.


  1. Select two to four central texts with the same theme. Make sure the texts represent a range of voices and views.
  2. Once students have read each text, assign them to teams. Task each team with taking on the mindset of one of the authors or characters from the texts.
  3. Display a series of questions or statements related to the theme. Ask each group to take on the point of view of the author or a character. This will require them to set aside their own feelings and interests and develop a firm understanding of the text’s central idea(s), the author’s message and the development of each character.
  4. Conduct the discussion in rounds, posing one question or statement at a time. Instruct teams to work together to discuss how they think their author or character would respond. Teams must highlight at least one piece of text to support their responses.
  5. Next, have one representative from each team report what his or her group's author/character would think about the question or statement.
  6. To make the discussion richer and more challenging, enact scenarios in which different authors or characters talk to each other. Students should identify points at which their authors or characters would have similar or conflicting views on a topic. Consider creative variations like having students conduct mock interviews with their authors or characters.
  7. Conclude the discussion by having students share which of the authors or characters they feel makes the most persuasive arguments.
  8. For an extension writing task, have students write a short dialogue between two of the authors or characters. What would the conversation be like if they met in a coffee shop today?

English language learners

Offer English language learners an alternative task that focuses more on reading and writing (e.g., write and design story character home pages using the parameters outlined in this strategy).

Connection to anti-bias education

What Would They Say? brings perspective-taking to the forefront of the literacy experience. Students must suspend their own realities and judgments, consider social issues from someone else’s point of view, and think deeply about the feelings and interests of another person. Perspective-taking is a key competency within anti-bias education; it enables students to appreciate and live alongside diverse people.

Sample What Would they Say? text selections

Theme: Race and Ethnicity
Texts related to this issue/topic Relevant author or character Discussion questions and statements
  1. A Call to Rebellion
  2. What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?
  3. Black Panther Party Survival Program
  4. Letter from a Birmingham Jail
  1. Henry Highland Garnet
  2. Frederick Douglass
  3. Huey Newton
  4. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
How should a people respond to being treated unjustly?

Theme: Rights and Responsibilities
Texts related to this theme Relevant author or character Discussion questions and statements
  1. Civil Rights Act of 1964
  2. Proclamation of the Striking Textile Workers in Lawrence
  3. Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls Conference
  4. Proclamation of the Delano Grape Workers
  1. John F. Kennedy
  2. Textile workers
  3. Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  4. Delores Huerta
What is the role of the government in protecting individual rights?
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