I had the chance after I posted to observe a small group reading lesson where the teacher assigned one of the students to be the discussion leader. His role was to ask questions and encourage his peers to share their thoughts on their book club choice.
Another student in the group was counted on to lend cultural background information as she shared some of the cultural norms of one of the book characters. She excitedly talked about food and dinner customs in her house and how they related to the character in the book.
I’m not sure if we give enough credit to allowing students to accept responsibility for helping their peers to learn. It is something that students want to do, and are excited to do. It can help to make the classroom more efficient, productive, and meaningful for all of the students present.
And hopefully, more students would want to be present. Keep assigning those classroom jobs, roles, and responsibilities. Make students accountable for their own learning, and engage them in the learning process.