Elementary Morning Chat Summary from 9/17/15

At our morning chat on Thursday, Sept. 17th, we discussed the Junior Great Books program.
Below is a summary of the program.

The Junior Great Books program has its emphasis on discussion and its focus is on each child’s interpretation.
This gives them many opportunities to develop their reading, writing, critical thinking, and oral communication skills. All the children will be able to contribute and grow in their ability to read and enjoy challenging literature, no matter their reading or writing levels.

This language program contains interpretive activities that indirectly enable the children to become more aware
of their reactions as they read and develop a sensitivity to the written word.

This stimulates their curiosity about a text and encourages exploration of new ideas through writing. They will have practice with a variety of reading and thinking skills:

  1. recalling details from a story
  2. drawing inferences from the text
  3. analyzing characters and then motives
  4. finding the main idea or themes
  5. learning morals/ life lessons on values

JGB offers amazing reading selections, which are rich in both ideas and vocabulary while covering many genres and works from a variety of cultures.
The program follows the following process:


First, a reading is done at school. This gives the children the opportunity to absorb the material on an imaginative, as well as an emotional, level. They do not have to worry about decoding, fluency or comprehension on their own at that time. They begin to reflect on the story and begin to formulate questions.

In the 6-9 class, the next step is as follows: both the children and the parents will be asked to do three additional readings- 1. done by the child only, 2. done by the parent only, and 3. both the parent and child take turns reading together.  Repeated exposure to the text promotes fluency in reading, as well as comprehension. Children can acquire new vocabulary and learn to derive word meanings from context clues.


Multiple readings also make it possible for students who are not yet fluent readers to work on equal footing with the rest of their friends and peers. This shared group discussion is based on the idea that many minds working together can discover and uncover more than one individual working alone; especially given the complex stories introduced by the Junior Great Books program. Knowing that there are no right or wrong answers, the children will collaborate and share their ideas and thoughts. They may have different answers or points of view but they are taught to respect others’ views, ways of thinking and opinions. When they listen to others, they may be able
to provide NEW ideas.


Sometimes sharing the answers to questions during the group allows the children to clear up any misunderstandings of the story. They learn that listening to other peoples’ opinions and reactions is an important part of developing one’s own thoughts.


There is a writing component which is a natural compliment to the reading experience. The emphasis at first is not on the final product. The writing is used to assist the children to think and use it as a means to help understand the overall story, the characters, the theme and their own thoughts based on their personal life experiences. After the discussion, the children have time to refine/revise and edit their ideas with attention to tense, spelling, grammar rules and sentence flow.


The Junior Great Books program also helps establish the concept of “deadlines” and helps the children develop the ability to set up time management skills and how to prioritize. They  learn to do their best work independently; relying not on the facilitators but each other.


This work continues into the 9-12 class. Here J.G.B. is worked on all year long and is now done all in school, not
as part of their homework.


There is an emphasis now on written language in the Upper Elementary. In the Fourth and Fifth years, the students have a workbook, which has writing exercises and activities. This is  preparing them for the Sixth year, where the emphasis is on writing essays. There is no longer a workbook or prepared pages at the this level. As our “Chat” participants saw, the Sixth Years have a box of JGB, with ideas for essay preparation.


These stories are works of Literature which is on grade level and satisfies various components of the Common Core Standards.

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