What is a Grand Conversation?

Inside: An explanation of a grand conversation or book talk.

What is a Grand Conversation?

I just realized that I often refer to a grand conversation as an excellent way to extend a particularly good story but that I haven’t done a very good job of explaining what that is.

In short, it’s a fun way to discuss a book in depth and is somewhat reminiscent of an adult book club (without the wine).

4 Steps for a Successful Grand Conversation

1. Choose a book with a great underlying message, preferably one where you know there will be some differing opinions.

2. Read the book to the class, solely for enjoyment. Then read it a second time (I usually do this the next day) and ask the children to think about any questions or wonderings they have about the story while it’s being read aloud. I also ask them to think about the author’s big message.

3. When the reading is finished write down all the kids’ questions (even the obvious “on-the-page” questions). Below are the questions my class came up with after I read them The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie.

Grand Conversations Defined: A fabulous way to encourage in-depth discussions about books with young children. #booksforkids #bookdiscussions #grandconversations #gradeonederful
4. Gather around in a large circle, read each question aloud and then ask the students to respond to them.  Explain to the children that if they have something to say they can do so without first putting up their hands. I remind them not to speak over someone else, and to take turns. This is meant to be a conversation, a discussion, and ideas are to be freely shared.
Grand Conversations Defined: A fabulous way to encourage in-depth discussions about books with young children. #booksforkids #bookdiscussions #grandconversations #gradeonederful

I routinely find that after practicing a grand conversation two or three times, my classes do VERY well with this. They reflect carefully and thoughtfully about each of the questions.

With the easy questions, generally one of the kids answers it quickly and everyone agrees to move on.

We typically don’t get to all the questions and our conversations often segue into other areas, but we ALWAYS have wonderful discussions.

When interest begins to wane I stop the conversation. Often, especially if I feel the enthusiasm is there, I’ll ask them to draw their thoughts and feelings about the book. This is sometimes called a Sketch to Stretch.

This is just a drawing that’s related to the story and the author’s big message, or alternatively a connection the child made to the book. When their picture is finished I’ll ask them to print a sentence describing it (or in the early days of Grade 1 I’ll scribe their words for them).

We often gather together again and anyone who wants to share their picture/thoughts is free to do so.

I hope you’ll give a Grand Conversation a try. What I LOVE about it is that it promotes deep and independent thinking.

Just remember to take a step back and let the children do the talking. The teacher’s job is to help the kids express their opinions thoughtfully and politely. Feel free to probe their thinking a little bit and to encourage the quiet children to speak up.

Have fun!

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