Book Clubs… Every Teacher’s Dream Come True
It’s every teacher’s dream. We all want our students to work well together, to be motivated to work, and to be passionate about reading. We are here to tell you that this is not just a dream. Book Clubs make this dream come true. Book Clubs earn a check mark for each of these things on your list. We are here to help you add some tools to your teacher toolkit in order to become effective at managing Book Clubs in your classroom.
Oh, and we’ve got some FREEBIES just for you!
Getting Started with Book Clubs
First of all, what are Book Clubs? Book Clubs are an opportunity for students to form partnerships in reading. Students read a book together, collaborate to get a job done, and share in the joy of exploring a book together.
So Where does a Teacher Begin?
Before anything else, teachers need to launch their Book Clubs by sharing their excitement and passion for reading with their students. It starts with YOU. If YOU aren’t passionate and excited to read, why should your students be passionate about reading? We love the idea of gathering up the titles that you have available for Book Clubs and SELLING them to your students. That’s right! Get up there and give each title a “commercial,” of course, leaving out the “Spoiler Alerts.”
One word of advice is to be sure you have read the books they are reading! We know… we know… but we promise, your Book Clubs will be more successful if you do! Did we scare you off? Okay, okay, how about this… Let’s say that you have six titles. How about read half this year and the other half next year? Audiobook? Summer Goals? No matter how you decide to get the job done, find a way… any way… make it happen!
The Goal: STUDENT-LED BOOK CLUBS
STUDENT-LED. This is the goal, but HOW?
The first way to achieve student-led Book Clubs is by empowering your students with the gift of choice. Students need to choose the books that they are reading. Get up there and sell each book with a commercial. Let students know how amazing each book is and then let them choose. We love the idea of posting Sign-Up Sheets around the room with the book titles. We have found that four to a group is the perfect number, but you can always do what works best for the amount of titles that you have available. Students walk around and “shop” for their books.
Common Teacher Concerns
Now, many teachers might say, “Well, how do I make sure that students choose a book at their level?” Well, hopefully, they already know how to do this because you have taught them how to choose books that are just right for them. Let them try! Let go of the control. If they don’t make the right decision, guide them. Maybe let them choose between two books that are at their level. A student should never be forced to read a book they don’t want to read.
Another concern that teachers have is, “What if they just pair up with their friends?” So what! Wouldn’t you want to read a book that your friends are reading? Trust us, they won’t have time to misbehave with the schedule you’ve got set up for them. They will be busy. If students are busy and engaged, there’s no time for misbehavior. Oh, and if there is misbehavior, separate them from the group for a day… what’s more punishment than being separated from your friends that are having fun?????
If students choose their book titles and groups, they will be more likely to read, fulfill their roles and lead each other during Book Clubs.
The second way to encourage Student-Led Book Clubs in your classroom is by giving students responsibilities. They need something to do! They need a common goal that they are all working towards! If students are busy with a job in front of them, they have no choice but to lead each other. Students have no one to blame but themselves if the timer goes off and the work isn’t done!
In Our Classrooms
The common goal in our classrooms is for students to complete their Book Club Booklet and to follow the schedule of tasks in a given amount of time. We highly recommend using a timer.
We always start out by discussing the reading from the previous day. In the students’ Book Club Booklet, they each have a different job to do each day. One might collect vocabulary, while the other might focus on figurative language. The point is, each student has a job that they, individually, need to accomplish. They discuss their findings with each other and share what they produced.
Along with these jobs, students prepare, what we call, “Discussion Seeds,” Discussion Seeds are ideas that popped into their head while reading and are something that they want to discuss with their group. When the time is right in the discussion, they plant their “seed” and watch it “grow” into a conversation. A sample Discussion Seed could be, “What if the antagonist was our teacher?” or “What if we changed the genre from fantasy to realistic fiction, what would have to change?” or as simple as, “What did you think when _____ happened?” Discussion Seeds can be anything! A Discussion Seed’s purpose is to keep the conversation going and to keep a group of students from saying, “We’re done. Now what?”
The next item on our schedule is that we display a menu of questions on the board that students answer. Again, we believe in student choice. Students take turns choosing a question that their group will answer. Each person has a chance to share their answer verbally in the group. They choose a different question each day, over the course of your Book Clubs.
Why Some Book Clubs Fail
Book Clubs tend to fall apart when students do not read and do not fulfill their role in the group. Sometimes, these students will try to sink into the background and let the others do the work for them. We have all seen this happen. Maybe you were in this group growing up! Know what we mean?
Over the years, we have found the cure to this problematic disease. Our cure is that we have our students come prepared with, what we call, a “Ticket to Discussion.” Our Tickets to Discussion are very basic. They might ask for vocabulary words with page numbers or to write a few sentences about their favorite part. The point is that they had to have read to fill them out. If the ticket is filled out, students get the privilege of participating with the group and if not, they are asked to sit out and complete the reading or work that they did not accomplish. Hopefully, the student learns their lesson and comes prepared the following day. If not, this student may lose the opportunity to be in a group. Peer pressure is a wonderful thing! We have found that we very seldom have this problem because students want to interact with each other and they want to share in the excitement that Book Clubs create.
Students also need to be held accountable for their teamwork in a group. Having your students create norms for group work is critical. They need to know how to share their ideas and involve everyone in decisions and conversations. We post these norms around our room and even on their bookmarks as a constant reminder. Here are some bookmarks with some behaviors that are beneficial for Book Clubs. Enjoy!
STUDENT Reflection in Book Clubs
The last major component to Book Clubs is SELF-reflection. The reflection needs to come from the students… not from you. Students need to evaluate their own work along with their group’s teamwork.
We have found that the use of the Fish Bowl strategy helps with self-reflection tremendously. Around day three, we like to have one group sit in the middle, while the rest of the class circles around them and quietly observes. The group in the middle conducts their Book Club meeting as they normally would. The rest of the class watches. Have a class meeting after the group is done and have students list five things they really liked and one way the group could improve. This is where you can offer suggestions to guide the direction you would like your Book Clubs to go. The next day, do the same thing. You will notice the students using your words! Each day, the Book Clubs will get better and better. We like to do multiple rounds of Book Clubs, so you really only have to do this the first round. During the second or third round, you can do it a few times just to check in.
Another way to assist students with self-reflection is by having them write about it daily. Students get the chance to write about things they are proud of, team members that did a great job and also things that they wish to improve. By using this piece, students can lift each other up and work on improving on a daily basis. Enjoy!
The Hardest Part of Book Clubs
Teachers like to be in control. The hardest part of Book Clubs, for a lot of teachers, is sitting back and watching the class take the reins. Your role is a facilitator, not the director. Hold a class meeting if there is an issue and have the students come up with a solution to the problem. Hold as many meetings as necessary, but try not to jump into a group and lead the discussion. Enjoy popping around from group to group and taking notes and making observations of your little readers! You have worked hard at teaching them what they know, so enjoy watching them use it while reading and collaborating!
Benefits of Book Club Booklets
Have Open House or an observation? Display these Booklets on your board! Fun, colorful, and full of student work!!!!
Another benefit to doing Book Clubs is that they make the perfect addition to an Author Study! We always do these with our favorite author, Roald Dahl. First, we read about Roald Dahl, and then we learn more about him through all of his books! You could make a bulletin board just like the one below!
Our hope is that we have added more tools to your teacher toolkit. We love spreading positive teaching ideas that inspire you to inspire your students. We would love to hear from you in the comments below! Ask any questions that you may have or share about Book Clubs in your room! We look forward to hearing from you!
Ready to Start Book Clubs?
What are You Waiting For??????
Everything mentioned in this blog post can be accomplished by purchasing our Book Clubs for Upper Elementary Bundle! You will get ready-to-use materials that will have your students begging for more!