I developed groups of questions around important concepts in the novel. The questions were of varying levels of difficulty, covering the range of Bloom's taxonomy. On paint chips (I used Olympus chips with three colors, but you can use any brand*), I arranged three questions in increasing order of difficulty. Here's a snapshot of what the cards looked like:
(For some cards, I cheated and had only two levels because I couldn't think of a synthesis or evaluation question. That's something to work on for next year.)
I arranged the desks into two concentric circles with the outside circle facing the inner circle. (I have 24 students in the class, so the pairing worked out evenly. I only had to create 12 cards.) The inner circle stayed put, and the outer circle rotated at the end of each round. To start, each pair was given a card to discuss for 4 minutes; as they answered the questions and talked about the topic, they took notes about how knowledgeable their partners were and what new insight they gained from the discussion. At the end of the round, the outer circle moved one seat clockwise, and the inner circle passed the card one seat counterclockwise. This ensured that the both partners in the new pair would get new questions. They continue in this way until the 6th round--it gets tricky here because the outer circle will get around to a card they've already seen. I just had the inner circle pass one more time, which seemed to get them back on track with new cards.
At the end of the activity, I asked students to review the notes they took and fill out a ballot telling me who would be their "ideal date"--e.g. who was the most knowledgeable and provided you with the most new insight. We went over all of the questions as a class. The students turned in their notes at the end. I looked over the notes to see if there was any misinformation; otherwise, I gave them credit for participating and taking notes.
Reflection: The students said this activity was really helpful because they got to share their ideas in a safe environment. The quiet ones did not feel intimidated because they only had to share with one person at a time, and the dominant speakers had to learn to share the time with their partners. They enjoyed being able to discuss more intimately with classmates they normally didn't talk to.
If you try this, please let me know how it goes!