Book Clubs 101

Since the start of my teaching career, I had been afraid of book clubs. I knew I would have to face them sooner or later, but I wanted to put them off as long as possible. Not only did I not feel confident in how to implement them, but I was also really reluctant to give up control of my classroom. Unfortunately (actually, fortunately), I was “forced’ to start book clubs this year when we finished our class novel way too early. So, I was left with two choices: stretch out the class novel (“Ok class, here’s another project on Tuck Everlasting!”) or start dun dun dun….book clubs! So, I mustered up my teacher superpowers, planned a book club unit in under a week, and kept my fingers crossed that it would all run smoothly. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised! Book clubs have somehow gone from being my worst enemy,  to my new favorite part of the curriculum.

First Things First!

  1. Creating clubs: Students are given the chance to view all of the books and pick their top three choices. I do my best to put students with one of their top choices, but I also need to account for their reading speed and level. It’s really tough for book clubs to run smoothly when the group is waiting for one slow reader, so when stuck between choice and pace – put that student with the better pace!
  2. Setting up: Once I have created the book club groups, I create student folders. Each student will get his or her own manila folder, which will IMG_8503.JPGhave an image of the book on it as well as the items listed below (in the Student Folders category). I do this all for the students ahead of time because it saves time and it’s less of a headache (I can hear it now: “WHICH side did you say to paste this paper on!???!!”). Once you hand the folders out, give students time to create a group name and decorate their folder. It is a fun and easy way to create group morale.

Student Folders:

  1. Calendar (you can print student calendars from http://print-a-calendar.com/)
    • The calendar is used as a large overview of the weeks ahead. Students can use this to get a loose idea of when they can finish the book by counting the number of pages and allocating them among the days. Be sure to fill in (or have them fill in) holidays, assemblies, etc. so that students know what days they will not have time to read/discuss.
  2. Goal Page: “on ___________ we will read from ___ to ____”
    • This is more of an immediate goal sheet. Students in my class usedIMG_8504.JPG it on a day-to-day basis. After reading and discussing, they would figure out what they wanted their goal to be for tomorrow. This was a lifesaver to have written down because It helped students to track and adjust their reading goals (“We read really fast today, let’s set a higher goal tomorrow.”) and 2. It helped absent students know what they needed to do to catch up – without asking their group or me!
  3. Discussion Reflection Sheet (this, as well as the goal page, can be found on my TPT store)
    • I created this sheet last minute on a whim, but it became one of the most aspects because it holds students accountable. After book club discussion, students fill out the discussion log by reflecting on what they did well and what they can improve on. While students are filling this out, I come around to give stickers to groups that I saw working well together that day. Yes, they still love stickers in sixth grade, but there is also an incentive -whichever group earns the most stickers on their folder at the end of book club earns a treat (lollipops). Aside from stickers, I also collect the folders at the end of each day, read their reflections, and then leave my own comments (i.e. “Great discussion today! I really liked how you spent time talking about so and so. Next time, focus on making sure all group members are actively listening.”).IMG_8506.jpeg

It All Comes Together:

  • It’s important to note that prior to book clubs my students would come in to class everyday and right away begin 10-15 minutes of “Quiet Reading Time”. This was a time where they read independent books and worked on weekly reading assignments. During book clubs (only about 3 weeks), students only read their book club books and they did not have weekly reading assignments, other than the book club assignments. I felt I needed to mention this because it may be why the schedule below worked so well with my class (they were used to it), but it may not work with every class; adjust as you see fit.
  1. Upon coming in to class, students will take out their book club folders (I kept them in an accessible cabinet in my room), meet very briefly to review what their goal for the day is, and make any adjustments if needed. For instance, if they had two people absent the day before, that group may decide to do less reading than they had originally planned.
  2. Students will read quietly to reach their goal, and then complete the task of the day.
  • Each day I have two tasks for students to complete after their reading/ before their discussion. The first one is always: 1) Create a discussion question, and the second one varies. Here are some examples:
    • Make a strong prediction (I predict….because….).
    • What is your favorite part so far and why?
    • Make an inference about a character.
    • Sketch a scene (be sure to include a caption).
    • Make a connection (text to text/self/world).
    • Who is your least favorite character and why?
  1. When students are done reading and responding it is time for discussion. Discussion involves each student asking the group his/her discussion question (question 1) and sharing his/her response to question 2. Students will likely have trouble with discussion in the beginning, so it is important to walk around and help them to stretch their thoughts, voice their ideas, and dig deeper. ß This will be easier to do if you have read all of the book club books!
  2. After discussion students will fill out the discussion reflection and the goal sheet. 

Accountability:

How are students being held accountable?

  • Observation
    • Book club relies very heavily on student participation. When I see a student is not participating, I deduct points from his or her class participation grade. While it’s understandable that some students are a shy, it’s still important that they give it their all. Here are some ways to monitor real participation:
GREAT 🙂 FAKING IT 🙁 
Student is actively reading. It is clear he or she is engaged in the book during Quiet Reading Time. Student is restless during Quiet Reading Time (eyes looking at the clock, around the room, etc.)
Student contributes to the discussion with complete phrases and his/her own ideas: “I agree it was really odd when Jenny lied, it was so unlike her! I wonder if she is only doing that to save her friendship with Tom?” Student only contributes to the discussion with short phrases: “Yeah I agree with John.” When it is his/her turn to share he/she uses very basic ideas that could have been picked up through a quick skim or from reading the back of the book: “I can’t believe Harry Potter is going to Hogwarts!”
  • Journal Responses: “Questions 1 and 2” (See number 2 in “It All Comes Together”)
    • I walk around to check individual journal responses as students complete them. If you don’t get to everyone in one day, that’s okay. The good thing about book club is it is a continuous cycle, so you can check on the students you missed the next day.
    • If I want to do a more formal check, I will have students complete their responses on loose leaf, and hand it in at the end of the period.
  • Discussion Reflection
    • As mentioned previously, I check this after every discussion and give groups written feedback.
  • Projects
    • Once a group finishes with their book they create and complete
      IMG_8729.JPG

      Book Club Project     (Student -created)

      a project, time permitting, and hand it in for a grade.

    • Hand out the Project Planner(this can be found on my TPT store) to groups that have finished.
      • Let them be creative – it’s amazing what students come up with!
      • Review their creation, add or subtract as needed, then sign your approval.
      • After they finish the project, the Project Planner becomes the rubric.
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