Book Club

book clubs

One of our most recent literacy objectives was to have students meet independently in a group to read the same book and have an enriching discussion. I broke up my students into 5 groups that would meet once a week with a book on their independent reading level (determined by running records).  I brought students to the reading carpet and explained what a Book Club is and my expectations for what they are to do each week when they meet.

My lower-leveled readers struggled with student -led book discussions. Their books were based on simple concepts and left little to infer or discuss in depth. They did not hold up their end of the bargain in terms of coming to Book Club ready to discuss an assignment of pages read. I decided to not battle uphill on this one and gave each group 3 warnings. If they received the 3rd warning as a group then they would not participate in this extra activity. The inevitable happened, and my two lower reading groups received their 3 warnings and exited the Book Club process. They were relieved to say the least. The expectations were high and they had a hard time managing their time to come prepared each week. But they are not off the hook yet! I will try again in 4th quarter when their reading levels have increased a bit more and they have more practice with student-led activities.

So the students that handled this experience, truly blossomed as individuals and readers. I used to sit and watch the dialogue ensue, not offering a clue of a correct response or a job well done…just a bystander. Over time, I was able to leave the group completely and meet individually with students while the group maintained itself. It was beautiful to watch and even more amazing to listen to their predictions, connections, and answering one anther’s questions.

The picture above is my “TD” group reading the book “Freedom Train.” As a grade level we will be seeing this play in a month, and this group will be teaching the other students all about the concepts and topics within the chapter book before we head to the show. This group has brought me to tears on numerous occasions with the way they respectfully relate to one another, bring in text-text connections, and overall understanding of the gut-wrenching times of our past. This group has a leader that rotates each week. They decide before they break what their next assignment will be for the following week. During their 45 min of independent reading time each day, they read a book on their level, a free read, or of course this Book Club book. They take notes to help them during discussion time. They arrive in Book Club ready to share their thoughts and ideas. They build off each others comments and the conversation flows. There are posters with sentence starters to help aid the discussion if needed, as well as a hand-out they keep wit them to help allow all members of the group to share. After their meeting, they fill out a reflection sheet so I know if they were prepared. I discussed thoroughly what they intended, assigned a future reading, and participated to the highest level. This accountability system lets them know I am interested and invested in their ability to commit whole-heartedly to the discussion, that it is important to give not just receive, and that they are capable of being successful with the requirements.

Book Club was only a month long unit; however, I am utilizing it for the rest of the year by mixing up the genre of book my students have. We are remaining with Nonfiction for this next month, but focusing solely on biographies. This group mentioned they would really like to learn more about Helen Keller, so I will help them make that a reality. If a student knows what they want to learn about and I can provide them with that, I am ecstatic. I cannot wait to see what next month brings!

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Do you utilize book clubs in your classroom? If so, how?

About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.