Placeholder text, please change
Mrs. Lisa Haun » Grand Conversations

Grand Conversations


WHAT are GRAND CONVERSATIONS and WHY are they important?  

“...student engagement in discussions about text results in improved reading comprehension, higher level thinking skills, and increased literacy motivation.” (Gambrell, 2004)

*It refers to authentic, lively talk about text.  

*The teacher is a facilitator and initiates the discussion with a “big” question or interpretive prompt.

*The talk pattern is conversational. Turn-taking occurs spontaneously with students taking responsibility for shaping the content and route of the discussion.

*Decisions about who talks, in what order and for how long, flow naturally as students and teacher alike exchange ideas, information and perspectives.

*During the conversation, the teacher participates as a member of the group, stepping in as needed to facilitate and scaffold the conversation, but it is the students who carve out the conversational path.

*The teacher typically brings closure to the conversation by summarizing, drawing conclusions, noting strategies/thinking observed, or establishing goals for the next conversation.


*To be successful, grand conversations require a safe and inclusive classroom environment that can support students in freely expressing their ideas and opinions and collaboratively constructing meaning.

*Practice in "fish bowl" setting. Have outside group have a checklist and note behaviors/expectations/rich conversation examples.

*See photo of sample chart below.

Other examples:

-If you don’t agree...say so, but be polite!

-Listen carefully!  What is the speaker really saying? Has the speaker finished speaking?


*Selecting a text that is rich enough to stimulate and support a grand conversation is critical.

*The text needs to be sufficiently challenging so that it requires students to wrestle with the concepts presented; it needs to be multi-layered so that it allows a variety of interpretations and opinions.

Samples of books with social justice themes or evoke strong emotions:

Each Kindness


The Other Side

Those Shoes

The Summer my Father was Ten

Thank you Mr. Faulker

My Best Friend

Steamboat School

One Green Apple

The Invisible Boy

Malala’s Magic Pencil

Lost and Found Cat

Stepping Stones

Kevin Heinkes books

Patricia Palocco books


-What do you think the author wants us to think?

-How did you feel about what happened in the story? What made you feel that way?

-What do you think was the most important thing that happened?

-What was something that confused you or that you wondered about?

-Did you agree with what (character’s name) did? Why?

-How would the story be different if another character was telling it?

-Are you like any of the characters? In what ways?

-Is there someone in the book you’d like to talk to? What would you say? Why makes you want to say that?

-What do you think will happen next? What do you think (character’s name) will do? What would you do?

(Also Google Conversation Stems)



LINK to & BUILD on others’ comments

I agree with him but I also think…

I think that’s a good idea and also…

Yes, but I also feel...

DISAGREE constructively

I don’t really agree with that because..

I don’t think so because…

That’s not what I think it meant because...


What did you mean when you said that…

I don’t understand what you’re saying. Tell me again please.

Can you explain that again?


I was wondering why..

How come..

Why do you think...

EXPLAIN your thinking

Because in the book it says..

My family and I did something just like that when..

I think so because…

Well that’s not what I meant.  What I meant was...



(adapted from Pearson, 2009):


-Invite ELABORATIONS of an idea - (“Tell us more about that.”)

-Ask for CLARIFICATION-  (“I’m not sure I understand. Is there another way you can explain that?”

-Encourage NEW POINTS OF VIEW -  (“ what does everyone else think?”)

-Invite NEW VOICES to enter the conversation - (“That’s interesting. I’m wondering if anyone else has an idea to share.”)

-REFOCUS the conversation - (“We were trying to decide why the character acted the way he did. Any ideas?”)


TRAFFIC LIGHT (Marcell, 2007)

Give student sticky strips of each color (2-3). Student are encouraged to use at least one of each strip to help them prepare for discussion.


GREEN - GO strips to mark points that you agree with, think are important, make a connection with, made you laugh, etc.


YELLOW - CAUTION strips to mark points that you are unsure of, found confusing, left you wondering, raised questions, etc.


RED - STOP strips to mark points that you disagree with, did not like, made you upset (sad/angry), etc.




From Momentum in Teaching:
Grand Conversations In the Classroom
* Grand Conversations model a meaningful discussion of literature.
* Grand Conversations encourage responses, expansion, inquiry, and exploration of the text.
* Grand Conversations validate student input and provide a group memory.
* Grand Conversations lead to the discovery of patterns of thought within a group.
* Students have an opportunity to share varied responses to literature.
* Grand Conversations develop a greater understanding of the selection than may be possible as individuals.
*The teacher pre-reads the text (possibly many times) with students before a GC.  Just spend time enjoying the book together.
* Students independently read all or part of a selected piece of literature, fiction or nonfiction.You may ask the students to jot down a thought to bring to the group on a sticky note.
* The teacher or group leader, depending on the experience of the students, invites the students to join a discussion of the literature. "Is there anyone who would like to start our GC with a strong thought?"
* The teacher probes and students contribute their thoughts and opinions. The leader's role is to facilitate and encourage a higher levelof thinking without stating his/her opinion. Ask students to clarify, elaborate, and explain. Students work on growing ideas - avoid popcorn comments.
* The teacher or leader records topics and issues that are discussed. You may use large chart paper or an overhead projector.
* At the close of the conversation, the leader shares the recorded responses with the group. Any patterns that emerged in the
conversation are also reported.