Why book clubs?
I started working with a book club approach a few years ago as an experiment in 6th grade. I wanted to move away from whole class novel after whole class novel as had been done in the past. Now please don’t take that to mean I don’t like whole class novels because I do… a lot. I also believe that WCN can be more a training wheels event with the book clubs becoming the two wheeler down the road a little shaky but trying. In all 3 of my LA classes we have finished our WCN, Peak by Roland Smith in 7th grade and Refugee by Alan Gratz in 8th. We have reflected and done a little work post text to explore conflict and characters and now we are going to move to a more independent set up with the book clubs. I love book clubs because it provides choice, opportunity to have meaningful talk and meaningful writing time each period. Students get in groups and by the end of the week are responsible to be members of their book club asking and answering questions and sharing their thinking.
How we do book clubs in Room 157
We are starting tomorrow which means speed book dating. All options are going to be out at different tables for students to work their way around and read small portions (first pages, book jacket, review blurbs) they will then indicate their top 3-5 choice on a list. I will be taking the list to look at pairings and if certain groups are going to need much higher levels of support, access to another supply of texts and so on.
From there we will be looking over our reading journals, it is the only “work” requirement they have during the book clubs. No tests, no worksheets, no programs, no clip art. Last year they had to have a pages for each day to show they were reading daily. Because this was a stupid idea on my part I am shifting things this year a bit. I saw a tweet talking about Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle and their 2 page spread requirement. I love the idea and it gives kids the chance to reflect in a way that works best for them.
Now it is not just a free for all assignment. Weekly there is a guided focus question or task that is assigned on Monday and I check for completion Friday. They also are asked to included signposts they find, thought log stem responses and questions for their peers. We meet on Fridays to discuss all we have noted in our books and then set goals for the next week. At the end of the book club cycle they are responsible for a written response that fits into our curriculum and last year they did a partner project. Time became an issue but I am looking at still having a group assignment but it would be closer to Pernille Ripp’s 12 word summaries .
How we DON’T do book clubs
This will be quick. No booklets, No Teachers Pay Teachers, No purchased “Novel Studies”. Moving on.
Excited for the possibilities
Giving students and chance to read and showing them that we value their thoughts and ideas is empowering. We want students who read and think. I am not interested in marking booklets tied to a novel like I was subjected to in Junior High and High School. I am excited to listen to their conversations, check their meeting notes and sit down to go over their observations with them.
I see book clubs as a way that we can cover multiple outcomes and in a way students enjoy. It is work but it is work worth doing. The same can’t be said for the booklet novel studies.
Choice+Time+Access= Joyful Reading, adding in the group dynamic just increases the possibilities for students to explore their thinking.