Bill and our friend, Joyce, started the Grand Discussion idea at the school where I used to teach. I had always promoted Book Clubs in my own classroom, but they were able to take the concept to another level by combining the ideas of an entire community of interested 5th graders, along with their parents. What a fabulous experience for all involved!
When I moved to a new school in our district this year, I thought it might be a good opportunity to bring the same experience to yet another group of 5th grade students and their parents. So, I approached our librarian to see if she'd like to collaborate with me in this effort and she was delighted to try the idea (thanks Cathy!!).
We actually chose Also Known as Harper (same book that Bill and Joyce chose for theirs) as the book for the group. Being an inaugural group, we knew we would start small and build from that. And that is exactly what happened. We initially had seven students with their parents committed to participating in the conversation. By the time last night (our GREat Discussion night) came, our actual attendance was 4 students with parents, Cathy, and me.
We were a small but mighty group. The best part was that we all fit around one set of tables which made the conversation very intimate and gave everyone a chance to participate. The students and parents brought up great discussion items, some of which neither Cathy nor I had even thought. Cathy and I also had some discussion points, and the group jumped right in with some very insightful comments.
As we munched on cookies and Goldfish (what's a book club without some food?!), we talked about subjects such as homelessness as it is portrayed in this book, how the picture on the cover conveys so much about the meaning of the story, Harper's feelings about her dad, the poetry and words that were such wonderful self-expression for Harper, what it would be like to live in a motel room or a drive-in movie theater concession stand, and Winnie Rae and her mom (just to name a few). The conversations were rich, and both parents and students participated.
We're not sure what book we'll tackle next, but we do know we want to plan another GREat Discussion. Both Cathy and I love books and reading, so this seems like the perfect way to continue to promote our love of reading and reflecting with our 5th graders. It is also a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to share a book together.
It was a GREat evening!!