Grand Conversations: Literature Groups in Action.
GRAND CONVERSATIONS: Literature Groups in Action. Ralph Peterson and Maryann Eeds. New York: Scholastic, 2007. 117 pp. Paperback, $17.99. An updated classic title from the Bright Idea series is revisited to encourage teachers to realize their impact on children when they approach the story as an opportunity to temporarily move away from manuals, mechanics, and programs. Instead, the teaching is shaped by the teacher's beliefs about how children learn best, by their love and knowledge of literature, and by the students' interests. Grand Conversations reintroduces the concept of story as a transactional process, and that inspirational dialogue enhances a child's ability to bring meaning to and take meaning from literature.
This new edition is full of practical ideas and suggestions for teachers as they rise to the challenge of meeting all learners' needs and creating in them a love of reading. In its brief yet concise manner, the authors address the four distinct components of literacy: story in the home (the beginning of all story and study of story) and the three school-based components (sharing story with a group; extensive reading, which really equates to time; and intensive reading, when students spend time contemplating meaning and giving it "passionate attention" [W. H. Auden]).
In these five, short, easy-to-read chapters, the authors cover the basic beliefs of teaching with "real books"--these are the books you find on your nightstand, the books laying beside your favorite chair, the ones personally chosen for their interest value. These are the books that authors write to open our eyes and our hearts and move us to new heights of consciousness, the ones that view story as an "exploration and illumination of life."
Chapter 4 of the book revisits the literary elements of story in a fresh way, including examples from books and teaching ideas. One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 5, Teachers at Work, intended to help teachers get organized in designing a personal literature program for their own classroom. This chapter includes graphic organizers for record-keeping, responses, and other evaluations to provide the assessment tools necessary for teachers to approach the teaching of literature with confidence.
I would recommend this book to any teacher for any content area, to add a new and rich dimension to her classroom experience and to the lives of her students. Finally, here is a book that makes it easy to understand how to create and implement a literature-rich experience! Reviewed by Carol Deringer, Prospect, Pennsylvania.