Junior Great Books Provides a “Magical Time” for Montessori Students

Megan Hubbard

Discussion Day Is Students’ Favorite Day of the Week

Megan Hubbard, Montessori adolescent lead guide at San Tan Charter School in Gilbert, Arizona, just began using Junior Great Books® with her sixth- and seventh-grade students during the 2023–24 school year. She is already loving the program and plans to expand it to additional grade levels next year.

Why does she love the program? Because her students do. “Before using Junior Great Books, I had a very good chunk of my students who did not enjoy reading,” she says. “And now I can say that all 15 of my students look forward to our new story every two weeks. I’ve seen students who never could relate to a story we were reading, and they now find something they can relate to. And they have just really been enjoying the program.”

Megan Hubbard

Hubbard quickly established a familiar routine with her class, introducing them to each new story with the prereading activities that the Junior Great Books Teacher’s Editions provide. She then reads each selection aloud to her students. After that, students work in their Reader’s Journals to write their initial questions, complete vocabulary work, and annotate selections based on plot, character, or setting, depending on the prompts provided. Students then complete the comprehension test for each selection using Junior Great Books Digital Classroom. Hubbard notes that the digital platform has come in handy when students have used it for an additional read-aloud or to be able to access books when they are absent.

Hubbard’s students eagerly look forward to the Shared Inquiry™ discussions that are held every other Thursday. “In our inquiry discussions, it’s like a magical time for them,” Hubbard observes. “They love the seminar, they love getting together and talking about the writing.”

A Day Worthy of Ceremony

Hubbard notes that the class has created a ceremony around the Shared Inquiry discussions. “We have a whole ritual. They make tea, we sit down at the table, we have little name tags, and they have a great discussion.” Sometimes the class holds Shared Inquiry discussions outside, and they also use their outdoor space, which is a patio outside of the classroom, to do their weekly second reading and complete work in their Reader’s Journals. “It totally works outside—it’s so peaceful,” Hubbard observes. “Plus, there are natural elements to many of the stories, so things fit in there as well.”

The class is very focused on the group experience of each discussion. “I keep track of how each discussion is going,” Hubbard says. “I keep track of who is talking. So at the end we have almost a little contest about how many discussion topics we’ve brought up and how many times we all got to talk, how many times we referred to the text, or made a new point.”

It is probably their favorite part of the week. It really is; it’s awesome.

Great Fit for Montessori Schools

Hubbard thinks Junior Great Books is a great fit for Montessori schools because it incorporates work of the head, work of the heart, and work of the hands. “We have seen how Junior Great Books just encompasses all of that,” she says. “There is the interactive portion: the work of the hands, the writing, and even the seminar incorporates that. Work of the heart: just how they can relate to what they have been reading and relate it back to their lives. And work of the head: obviously, the academic part of it.”

“So it really works well in the Montessori classroom also because there is a lot of independent work, which is something we definitely focus on.” Hubbard notes that work students do in their Reader’s Journals can be completed any time independently. “They work on it when they want to. It works really well in our classroom.”

In addition to loving what they are reading, Hubbard’s students are now able to discuss literature at a higher level.

After doing this program for a year, I’ve noticed that the level of discussions we can have about a piece of literature is so different now. The students can analyze underlying meaning, how each story relates to their life . . . different things that I did not see before. They’re just better readers. They understand so much more of what they’re reading.

“It’s Easy”

According to Hubbard, for teachers the benefit of implementing Junior Great Books is crystal clear. “It’s easy,” she says. “It doesn’t take me a lot of time. I preread the story, but other than that it’s ‘open and go.’ I don’t have a ton of prep work that I have to do. Because it’s already been done for me.” The Teacher’s Materials provided in the program make complete sense to Hubbard, so she can implement the program as written.

Parents Love the Program Too

An additional bonus is great parent feedback. “We do conferences four times a year,” Hubbard notes. “And at every session of conferences that we’ve had, I’ve had parents tell me how much their students like the stories, how they look forward to when we get a new story each week, and that they like reading the stories with their children.” She says that students bring their books home and often read the stories with their parents as well. “So there’s only positive feedback about it,” says Hubbard.

For the immediate future, Hubbard will be bringing Junior Great Books to seventh- and eighth-grade students next year. Her assistant teacher this year, Ms. Gastelum, will be an upper elementary classroom teacher next year and plans to bring the program to her new students in 2024–25. And there are plans to involve upper elementary students as discussion leaders for their lower elementary peers. “They love giving lessons to the younger students, and this would get lower elementary students involved in Junior Great Books as well,” Hubbard notes.

Get Your Students and Teachers Involved

Would you like to engage your students with readings they really enjoy? Make Shared Inquiry discussion day their favorite day of the week? How about bringing teachers a program that’s easy to implement with rewarding activities that help students understand much more of what they are reading? Please get in touch with your Great Books K–12 partnership manager today.