The First Book Discussion

This week in my children’s literature courses, the students had their first in-depth book discussion. For each book discussion (there are 5 over the course of the semester) they read and write a response prior to coming to class. This week we discussed Grandpa Green by Lane Smith.

I love the first book discussion because the students almost always surprise themselves with how much they have to say and share with each other. They start by talking in groups of 4-5 people, each person having written their response paper from a different perspective. I explain that they will not all see and notice the same things and that is GREAT, it is what is “supposed” to happen. It is a bit nerve-wracking for some who are concerned with finding “the answer” or even “the right answer”.

But then, they begin. They each have their own copy of the book (a course requirement) and I see them turning pages and sharing their thoughts. Sometimes they get immediately into deeper questions, and sometimes they need to spend time looking through and sharing what they notice.

This semester’s classes did not disappoint. The small groups discussed the book for 30-40 minutes before we came together for whole group discussion. They were amazed – one student said, “Wow, that only felt like 15 minutes!”. Some things that they noticed and questions that they asked were:

  • looking at the first and last page to get another perspective of the narrative sequence
  • The way the intensity of the color green was used throughout the book helped differentiate memories and aspects of the garden
  • Who was narrating the story? Was it Grandpa or the little boy?
  • Was the Grandpa still alive or had he died?
  • the use of the color red on the page that Grandpa goes to war
  • was the garden real or imagined?

In two weeks we’re going to discuss The Arrival by Shaun Tan – I can’t wait!