Writing a Book Discussion Guide

In early fall I volunteered to serve as a facilitator for an online book club for Alpha Gamma Delta alumnae. For those who don’t know, I worked for Alpha Gam and try to stay involved as an alumna. The book club seemed like a nice venue for a short-term commitment. (If you an interested member, join the Facebook group!)

TheRefugees-BookCoverI’m facilitating the discussion on The Refugees for the month of January 2018.

It just occurred to me that writing the discussion guide was a very small instructional design project, but still worth evaluating. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • This may be one of the first items I have created without ever having learning outcomes in mind! The parameters were simply to provide a summary of the book, along with 1-2 pages of questions. At least one of those questions needed to relate to our organization’s Purpose or the role of alumnae in the organization.
  • Even without objectives or outcomes, I still found myself considering what I wanted other women to get out of this conversation. (What can I say, I’m a backwards design believer.) My hope is that our discussion will connect Nguyen’s themes and stories to issues in the lives of women of all walks of life.
  • I take a very structured approach to almost everything, so I wrote one question for each short story, plus an “intro” and “exit” question. It was an even ten, perfect for my brain. Certainly one could take a more thematic approach that might lead to deeper literary analysis. In the case of the online group, I think that “one question per short story” is advantageous because a reader can jump in at any point without having to “catch up.”

The Refugees is a collection of short stories written by Viet Thanh Nguyen, himself a refugee from Vietnam. Each piece is an independent story giving voice to those in Vietnam and in the U.S. impacted by their – or their families’ – status as refugees. The writing is filled with sensory details and dialogue that give life to the stories of those who leave one country for another.

Check out my discussion questions here, if you’re interested. This is raw Google Docs beauty, FYI.

I am going to design some graphics around the discussion questions. Here’s a preview – look for others on Instagram! If I have enough fun with this, I’ll post a follow-up.

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P.S. I am available for hire for small instructional design projects! I am employed full-time but aspire to incorporate some freelance work into my schedule and would love for that to happen organically. If you know me, or just like what you have seen, let’s talk!

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