Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A GREat Discussion!!!

I reviewed Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord this summer and absolutely fell in love with the story, the setting, and the characters. A friend of mine from my former school left the comment that Touch Blue sounded like a perfect book for a Grand Discussion (a parent-student book talk). She and Bill (my blog partner here at Literate Lives) have been doing this for several years with great success.

Since being at my new building, the school librarian and I decided to set up similar student-parent conversations of our own called GREat Discussions (see how I know a good idea when I hear it? Thanks Bill and Joyce!).

Anyway, back to my point. Tonight was our first GREat Discussion of the year, and we chose Touch Blue as the book to discuss. Cathy (our librarian) and I brought the treats, and then waited for the people and conversation to come. We were not disappointed by either one!

What transpired tonight was amazing!! We had 33 students and parents totally caught up in all the conversations. Because of the large numbers, Cathy and I decided to pose some questions to everyone, have them talk at their tables, and then come back to the big group and share out the important thoughts and conversations. The students were eager participants from the very beginning. They really drove the conversations, but the parents became more active in the discussions by the end of the night.

Lots of big ideas in the book were covered. A few of the highlights were:
  • the concept of belonging that permeated the story
  • all the foreshadowing on the cover
  • the relationship between Aaron and Tess and the rest of the family
  • why Aaron was so angry
  • Eben's behavior and motivation
  • all of the superstitions Tess had, and how well Cynthia Lord tied them into the story
  • the significance of the Tess catching the blue lobster and the importance of her throwing it back into the ocean
  • what it would be like to be a foster child
  • lots of symbolism -- the Monopoly pieces on the front cover were discussed and it went from there
  • the fun part of the chatter between lobstermen out on their boats
  • Tess gunning the boat at the end
Such rich, rich conversations swirled around the room from person to person. We started at 7 PM and ended at 8:15 PM, but there were several parents and students who could have gone much, much longer.

The beauty of all this are the "take-aways"of the experience:
  • Parents and students sharing a reading experience together. I would bet that there was some conversation within families before we even met for the GREat Discussion.
  • Sharing a book with others makes you appreciate it in a much more deep and meaningful way.
  • Parents were amazed at the depth of the students' conversations. It was great for them to see what kind of conversations children can have in the presence of a wonderful book.
  • Students got to see their parents as readers and participants in a meaningful conversation.
  • Parents coming to us afterward to tell us how grateful they were that they took part in this book talk.
  • Students and parents alike begging to know what the next book for GREat Discussion will be.
As you can tell, our GREat Discussion tonight was a huge success!! I think I speak for Cathy as well as myself when I say that the participants in the discussion tonight greatly enriched our thinking about Touch Blue. We feel very fortunate to have had such a great response from our 5th grade students and parents. Will keep you posted on what the next book will be. :)


  1. WAHOO!! SO happy to hear that were able to experience what Bill and I have for several years now. It is a powerful way to open up communication about somewhat difficult topics and great community building. So easy and oh, so worth it!
    Congratulations....what is the next book?

  2. Way to go partner! Trust me it will keep growing and growing, it is an awesome experience and one of the things I'm most proud of as a teacher.

  3. Joyce and Bill,
    What can I say, but I learned from the masters? :)

  4. How wonderful! I loved this book!!

  5. This is what authors dream of, right here. Thank you so much for all the work you put into your discussion--and what a wonderful treat to see these photos. :-)