Let it Go: Part 3- Grand Conversations

If you missed my first two posts on how to let go of certain things in your classroom, check how to put the rule creation process into your students' hands and get your students labeling materials and spaces in your room. 

Today is the last tip I have in giving up some of your control in your room and it is perhaps one of the most powerful ones. 

Oh I'm so guilty of doing this. I sit on my little low swirly chair and just start talking... and talking... and talking... and I feel myself just getting more frustrated and sad. And then I'm always thinking, "Hmmm how do I segue out of this and back to our content? This is a little awkward..."

And I can hear my students thinking, "I wonder what I'll play with at recess..." 


"I can't wait for brunch for lunch... it's my favorite lunch option."


"Is Mrs. O still talking?"

Instead of you lecturing when a problem arises, try having students facilitate the conversation- you'd be surprised what they come up with.

We use grand conversations for literature discussions and our class meetings often. Quick run-down:

Grand conversations are when I pose a thought, a question, or a problem for the group. Then, the students carry on the conversation. They use our accountable talking stems to keep conversation going. I stay out of it for the most part. I listen and take notes on the content of the conversation and who is participating. There's no hand-raising to talk; you simply just "play the field" and share. Students learn how to let other share their idea first politely if 2 people talk at once. Students who aren't participating or are struggling to jump in, well, I have devised different ways to get them involved:

  • Use talking chips or counters to offer a bit of control on how often each student can speak
  • Have students pause and turn and talk with a neighbor near by (this allows everyone to share an idea even if it isn't whole group)
  • "Mute" my active voices for a time to let my listening voices have time to chime in
  • Play "ghost" and whisper encouragement in my listening voices ears

Let's show an example:

One day, I went down to the lunch room to hear the entire 3rd grade class getting scolded for their rowdy behavior by our lunch staff. Not a proud moment.

We got in our line and went upstairs to our room. Instead of getting into our groove for math, we needed to have a class meeting about this. I simply said, "Gather for a class meeting." They come and sit in a circle. And I quickly type the problem/talking point on the Smartboard (I do this so that students can see it often during the conversation).

For this one, we started with this talking point: What was our behavior in the lunchroom and why is it a problem?

We have some ground rules:

After students shared about this, I might move to the next talking point: How can we fix it this time and prevent it for next time?

Same rules apply.

When we are done, I do a recap out loud (based on my notes). This might take anywhere from 5-10 minutes, depending on how long you want it to go. We can then ease back into our work and I don't feel like I'm going through major mood swings and students are actively engaged. Plus- it's real life. When we have a problem, we need to address it and we need to work on fixing it and preventing it. 8 year olds are smart. They now more times than not right from wrong. But they make mistakes and instead of me drowning on about it, this let's them learn from it and show me and themselves they are capable of problem solving.

Again, does it take time away from content. Yes. Yes it does. But it also is teaching valuable life skills (problem solving, conversation skills, building character) which is JUST as important (if not more) in authentic ways.

If you are thinking of doing a cannon ball into letting go or just sticking your pinky toe in the water, I strongly encourage you to find SOMETHING to try to pass the control over to your students. Coming from a super control freak, it really makes a different! And I realize when I do it, how proud of them I am for how they are growing and becoming independent.

I'm still trying to let go of many things... we'll see what other things I try this year! What are you thinking of trying??


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