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Book Clubs in the Elementary Classroom: A Blog Post Miniseries – Part 2 (How to get Started)

If you’ve made it here, you’re ready to find out HOW to get Book Clubs up and running in your classroom! This blog post is Part 2 of my Book Clubs Miniseries, if you haven’t read Part 1 explaining the 5 W’s of Book Clubs, I recommend starting there if you’re unfamiliar with Book Clubs or just want to learn more about my take on the importance of Book Clubs in the classroom. Ready? Here’s an overview of how I get Book Clubs going full steam ahead in my classroom:

How: How do you get started with Book Clubs, and how do you manage them?

I think the best way to explain this part to you is with a friendly list (Click here to get instant access to my FREE Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Started with Book Clubs resource, all you’ll need is an email address!) Screen Shot 2019-06-25 at 3.37.16 PM

Step 1 (This is the most challenging step): Gather the novel sets you will be using. You’ll make your selections based on two factors: Availability, and Readability. You’ll want a range of books that are appropriate for a range of readers. What will you do when a struggling reader falls in love with the summary of a book that you know will be too challenging for them?  It’s going to happen. I preface book clubs by reminding everyone that we love the books we can understand and connect with, that’s what makes us great readers. I promise them that if they don’t get their first choice, they will get their BEST choice. The best book choice for them. This is why it’s critical to create an accepting reading community in your classroom from day 1, but it’s never too late to start……… Back to business, for some of us, our book options will be more limited than others. I’ve increased my small group novel count primarily by ordering books on Scholastic, particularly when they’re $1… this happens often. If you’re a teacher and you’re not a member of Scholastic Books Clubs (it’s free to sign up), I strongly recommend signing up. Not only do they have great $1 book deals but the prices for many novels are affordable and they sell book sets at a discounted rate. An alternative to purchasing books, is to borrow them from your media center or your teacher neighbors! Some titles I’ve used for Book Clubs are:

  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Frindle
  • Bailey’s Story
  • Magic Treehouse
  • The BFG
  • I Survived (and I Survived: 5 Epic Disasters)
  • The Hero Two Doors Down
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Step 2: Summarize and build excitement.  After you’ve selected your books, it’s time to type up summaries of the books that will help your students decide if the book is for them or not. I try to remove character names from the summaries and replace any easily identifiable information with something more elusive. Prior to reading the summaries to the students, make it clear that even if they know the title of the book, they should not call it out to spoil the secret! If they’re confident they’ve already read the book before, decide if you’re comfortable with them rereading it for Book Clubs or if you want them to list it last and make a note that they’ve read it before. What is most important about this step, is that these summaries will be how your students rank their choices for which book they want to read during Book Clubs. You want to be cheesy, animated, and super enthusiastic when you read the summaries to the students. Get them to BUY INTO the magic that is being part of a Book Club! Hype it up! How cool is it that they get to pick a top secret book, read it along with their friends, and chat about it, just like grown ups do?! It’s going to be the MOST FUN 4-5 weeks of their school year! Reading is the best! YEAH!!book clubs in elementary classroom

Step 3: Students rank their choices. I provide students with a template to rank their choices in order of preference. They list the summaries starting with the one that makes them the most excited to read, all the way down to the one that they’re least enthused about. This template is included as an editable freebie in the Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Started with Book Clubs FREE resource. All you need is an email address so I know where to send it! 

Once your students have ranked their book choices, it’s time for you to sort them into their Book Clubs. Keep two things in mind while doing this: students should be placed based on preference and readability. Did a student select a book that you just know he/she will not be able to comprehend at this time? If so, reread Step #1, and place them in the Book Club where they will have the most success. 

One more thing… make sure that when your students are ranking their book choices that it is a completely silent activity. We want to avoid BFF’s, or gravitators as I referred to them in Part 1, choosing the same book just to hang out for the duration of Book Clubs. Don’t even allow eye contact during this time! Sometimes students can communicate with just a look! (Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but I promise it’s true). We want students to go with their gut to select a book that they’re most interested in clubs in the elementary classroom get started

Step 4: The big reveal! The time has come! Your students have been sorted into their Book Clubs and it’s time to reveal which book they will be reading!

Before you tell them their groups, have designated areas set up for each club to meet. Put the materials they will need in a bin that will store all things Book Clubs during the upcoming weeks.

Materials I include for each group are:
-their books
-editable bookmarks (*you may not have these ready on Reveal Day if you’re allowing students to create their own reading schedule)
-Post-It notes
-discussion starters (laminated, cut and put on a binder ring for durability)
-weekly reflection packets

I like to do the BIG REVEAL by giving them a “golden ticket” (an editable freebie in the Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Started with Book Clubs resource). Students open their golden ticket at the same time, I allow for some organized chaos/excitement to ensue and then they break off into their groups to mix and mingle for a few minutes. During this time they’re told to read the summary of the book, flip through some pages, and start thinking about what it means to be part of a Book Club. Students should not start reading at this time, we have to lay the ground rules first… But guess what?!

Now your Book Clubs are all set up and ready to take off! Here’s a peek at what you should plan to do with your Book Clubs during the first meeting (more on this in the final installment of the Book Clubs Miniseries- Part 3 coming Friday, June 28th)!

During the first official meeting of Book Clubs, students will:

  1. Develop their own “Do’s and Dont’s” chart for expected and unexpected behaviors during Book Club meetings.
  2. Create a schedule for reading their book.
  3. Learn YOUR expectations for their Book Club meetings.
  4. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! The more you practice expected behaviors during the first meeting, the less you will have to intervene later.

I hope you’re feeling confident in setting up Book Clubs in your classroom. More than that, I hope you are EXCITED to host Book Clubs in your classroom! If you haven’t already downloaded my free Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Started with Book Clubs it is a valuable resource to help you get a solid foundation to running effective Book Clubs… plus, it’s FREE! 

I’ve also created a resource that will support your students throughout Book Clubs with weekly reflections, discussion starters and MORE!

Book-Clubs-For-Any-Book-ElementaryHave you joined us yet? Click the image below to join the Let’s Talk Book Clubs! private Facebook group where you can collaborate with other educators and discuss all things Book Clubs!

Screen Shot 2019-05-31 at 3.51.59 PM

As always, I love to hear what you think and answer any questions you may have. Message me on Instagram for a quick response, and be on the look out for the final installment of this Blog Post Miniseries coming June 10th!

-Courtneybook clubs in the elementary classroom pin


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