Book Clubs in Room 157 (updated with NCTE slides)

A few weeks ago I shared that we had started our Book Club rotation for this semester. I would love to do multiple rounds but I make sure we get in at least one round of book clubs. Book Clubs in Room 157 are not a labor-intensive task. Really, when we boil it right down to the basics we read, we share, we create. I am not knocking the practice of Literature circles or students having a number of tasks to complete each day. What works for one classroom might not work for another and I know some are bound but having to record grades every day or every few days. This isn’t my situation but as I lay this out I hope to provide some ideas for folks wanting to try book clubs but see it as too big of an undertaking.

Day 1:Introduction-Book Choice

Some of our selections

For this particular book club we focused on Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s work regarding books as mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Students read with the lens of looking for those connections for themselves. To start the class I first talk about the analogy, we go over the expectations of book club (will talk about those later), and then students spend the period looking at the different books available. After students have read through the book jackets and maybe the first few pages they rank their choices. I consider their ranking and potential group dynamics and then assign a text-based on those criteria.

Day 2: Discuss requirements

To begin day 2 book club groups are revealed. Students are asked to gather to set a few norms for their groups. Things like discussion schedule, pages to be read each week, what people will agree to bring to meetings, and other things are discussed. My requirement of the kids is to use their notebooks for questions, wonderings, golden lines, visualizations, and any other things that pop up. They also have a multimodal element to include and an essay at the end. They are told about this prior to the start so they can best schedule for themselves.

To help them with the question generation and thinking I provide them with some sample questions and The Lifting Literacy toolkit that contains different reminders of strategies we have used or thought and question stems. Both are available on the site under “Teacher stuff” if they are useful by all means please use them. To practice the question asking and notebooking we tend to use a full class picture book. This year we practice our visual literacy skills using Matt de la Pena and Loren Long’s Love.

We have taken over the theatre lately. Makes for fun read-alouds 🙂

Day 3: Introduce Identity Maps

For this particular book club, I want students to explore identity. Both their own and the characters of their books. We are a relatively rural area and the majority of our students are white and would identify as Christian (largely LDS but not everyone). Over the years I have noticed that students really struggle to make connections when the characters live lives so different from their own. A few years ago I made a shift to have students break things down into character traits and examine those rather than focus on the big differences. This shift really helped students to see similarities in characters and make connections. While the experiences were difficult to connect with the humanity was not. To assist in this we looked at Sara K Ahmed’s “Being The Change” and activity around Identity Maps. Students wrote up rough maps for themselves before getting into the reading.

Day 4 -21: Reading-Discussing-Writing

I am not a believer in teaching books to death and am not a fan of books taking 6 weeks to get through. With that in mind, we set out everything they will need to accomplish. We have mini-lessons on strategies and for the next few weeks, we dedicate all our time to reading, discussing, and writing. Students use their notebooks to track thinking they schedule times to meet or they read together and once they finish the books they work on different types of responses.

Freedom to explore

The biggest success that I have enjoyed from this process is seeing students explore new ways to represent thinking. Their reflections as they experience things unfamiliar to them and reflect on the mirrors they find through identity work and windows that are presented to them are really a joy to learn from. Book Clubs for room 157 are almost a break as groups become engrossed in their books, we try to keep the day-to-day work elements light and the final responses simply a culmination of their notes and thoughts. I am blessed to have the freedom to grade less and enjoy learning more. That said I know not everyone has those experiences. A simple status of the class/notebook check/group check-in could supply teachers with those pesky numbers they are required to report. Heck sitting in on book clubs is part of the fun so if you have to report something every day join in and enjoy the discussions with the kids.

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