Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bring on the Book Clubs!

So when the Snowpocalypse hit right after winter break to extend it for a few days, I was happy. Not gonna lie. My winter break flew by and I did more playing than working, so a few extra days to get myself caught up was a happy surprise. But now?! Did I accidentally move to Antarctica or what? Between more snow/cold days off from school and an army of two hour delays, I'm starting to wonder if we'll ever have a normal week of school again. ;) 

Even with the two hour delays, I try to keep our routine as much as possible. We roll right into reading workshop when the students arrive and have been working on book clubs for the last two weeks. I love, love, love book clubs because it releases a lot of the responsibility to the students. So often in guided reading groups, the students looks to me as the teacher for guidance and direction. They tend to talk more to me than with each other. Getting students to hold authentic reading conversations is hard! I want that back and forth ping pong action, people!

So rolling into book clubs really helps with that. It takes a fair amount of teacher prep ahead of time, but it's sooo worth it. Since this is our first book club, I break students up into their groups and set a schedule. I divide the book into manageable sections where students will work independently one day and with their group the next. One their independent day, they read the book alone and answer questions I've written about the section. I include "right there" questions as well as "in your head" questions that require students to go beyond the text with their thinking. I like using these questions/packets because they give students a talking point when they meet in groups the next day. It's also a quick way for me to see who has done the work and is prepared for book clubs. 

When students meet with their groups, I roam the room to listen in on their conversations but I try SO HARD not to step in. I don't give much guidance the first day either because I want them to organically figure out what's going to work best for them. For example, this is what I put up for the first day they met with their groups:
on the fly teacher writing... wish it was cuter, haha

Super simple, right? They needed to meet to discuss their favorite part, what they thought might happen next, and then compare their packet answers from the section they had read. After that, they headed back to their desk to work on the extension activity for the day (which they would share with each other when they met next time).

For the most part, they did really well! After all groups were finished, we discussed what worked and what didn't. Each group volunteered helpful tips for the others, like comparing only one answer at a time instead of trying to talk about ALL questions at the same time. :)

Each day I gave my groups different talking points before they met (surprising part, something they'd change, etc.) I kept the talking points generic so they'd work with ALL books. By the end, most of my groups were really holding authentic conversations. Talk about teacher goosebumps! 

Book clubs also help with differentiation. I'm able to vary the levels of my books, the levels of the packets, and the level of support I give each student/group. I initially worked with my struggling readers to get them going on the process, but even by the end I was able to gradually release that responsibility to them 100%.

If you need something to get started with your book clubs, I have my book packets in my TpT store as well as generic activities you can mix in with any book in Word format so you can tweak them. Fair warning-- these are super simple visually and not "cute" with clip art or borders at all. Maybe some day I'll go back and cute 'em up, but for now they're just packed with content. =)

Stay warm, teacher friends! How many days 'til spring again?

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  1. I love the idea of book clubs, but I never know how to best jump into them. For a while, our curriculum had us do many book clubs, but we didn't have enough books. So- we didn't do them. Now, we do have the books, so we are giving our first book club a try in the next 2 weeks. I'm a little nervous, but your tips are helpful! Thanks for sharing- it came at a great time! :)

    Tales of a Teacher

  2. I love book clubs! My students are always more invested when they can talk about the books with their friends rather than in a whole-class setting. I get great deals at Scholastic warehouse sales and try to buy 4 copies of the most popular choices in my classroom. It's expensive but definitely worth it!

  3. I love that you allow your students to figure out how book club can work for them! I'm currently researching and practicing finding ways to increase engagement. This is such an awesome idea!

  4. I started book clubs (we call them literature circles) in my classroom at the beginning of January. I do it a little differently in that I meet with each group once a week for 4 days, and then the last day I roam the room like you described. I did a lot of prep work to prepare, but you are right, it is sooo worth it! To see them navigate conversations without my facilitating it is wonderful (though I have teeth marks on my tongue by the end of it, it is good for them!)


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