Book Clubs are a great way to get students collaborating about a book that they’re interested in. The key here is that they are interested in the book they are reading… that’s huge! If they’re not the drivers of the metaphorical ‘book choice bus’ in this situation, it’s likely that the book club will fall flat (more on that later). In this first blog post of the Book Clubs Miniseries, I’m going to give you the 5 W’s of Book Clubs (Did you crack that code? I’m explaining the Why-Who-When-Where-What of Book Clubs). I hope to leave you with a solid understanding of what Book Clubs are, what they look like in the classroom, and why they’re an important part of my school year. We’ll dive deeper into the topic of how to get Book Clubs up and running in your classroom in Part 2 of this miniseries. At the end of it, I hope you’ll have the confidence and tools you need to get Book Clubs started in your classroom! But for now, here are those 5 W’s.
Why: Why do you set up Book Clubs for your students?
This is easy for me to answer, but probably something you have to see to believe. Book Clubs bring students with common reading interests together. This is huge. You know how there’s a group of students in your class that are ALWAYS together, no matter how many times you try to split them up to branch out and mingle with other students? I call those gravitators. Book Clubs disband the gravitators. They bring students together who may not have many things in common on the surface, but share interest in a really good book. When my kids are in their Book Club meetings, it’s as if the groups are in their own little bubbles that fill up with genuine book talk. If done correctly, it’s a great way to listen to how much your kiddos have grown as readers, and how much they start to sound like you!
Who: Who is part of Book Clubs?
Book Clubs consist of a small group of 4-6 students. In my experience, a group of 6 students needs a little more monitoring and teacher intervention. It’s sometimes difficult for a teacher to keep a small group of 6 students on task, let alone a small group of 6 students keeping themselves on task. Not saying it’s impossible! If anything’s going to do it, Book Clubs will. What’s interesting is I always plan to have 4 groups of an even number of students, but because the power of choice lies with the students, my numbers have never been what I expected. Sometimes, one title will be so popular I’ve had to create two micro groups within the club, and other times a title will be so unpopular I’ve dropped the book altogether. Rule #1 of setting up Book Clubs, be flexible, and put student choice first. A close second is to have a solid Behavior Management system in place with clear expectations. If you could use a little help or a fresh idea in the area of Behavior Management, read this important blog post!
When: When do Book Clubs happen?
I introduce Book Clubs in my room during the third or fourth quarter of the school year. I need my third graders to be at the peak of independence, when routines and procedures are solid and I can trust that the conversations they have when I’m not with them will be about the book and not about Fortnite. This is tricky, because somehow the conversation always goes back to Fortnite…? But, I find that there is a sweet spot somewhere between March – May that I just know my students are ready for Book Clubs.
Once they’re set up and ready to roll, Book Clubs meet for 20 minutes everyday. I find that 20 minutes works for me, but if you have more minutes to spare, great! Depending on my schedule, the actual time of day they meet varies, but it’s essential to Book Club success to carve out 20 solid minutes each day and stick to it. I know better than most that crazy things happen during the day or testing throws your schedule off, but making Book Clubs a priority is so important. Trust me, your students will remind you if you seem to be close to forgetting that Book Club time is approaching.
Where: Where do your Book Clubs meet?
My classroom is set up with desks for each student and several flexible seating spaces around the room. The first year I did Book Clubs, the first meeting was a free for all with kiddos dashing around the room to claim their meeting space. There was a 10-kid pile-up on the futon when I realized I should have chosen their spots for them ahead of time. You may not experience a student tornado when you set them free for their first Book Club meeting, but ever since that natural disaster I’ve set up their meeting spaces and made it clear which group would go where, prior to sending them off. Your students will need a quiet place with distance between them and another group. Work with what you have, and keep in mind that you don’t have to be sitting in a chair to read a book.
What: What do students do during Book Club meetings?
They read! Teacher to teacher, what your students do during Book Club meetings is completely up to you. The next couple paragraphs explain some ideas that have worked well for me in the past, but take a minute to envision what the perfect Book Club meeting looks like to you, then have your student do that!
For starters, they really read, everyday. Once a week I provide a Question of the Day for the groups to respond to. I do this to make sure the conversation they have that day will be deep and meaningful, and maybe even centered around our targeted learning standard. It’s a great way to slip in some practice with important reading skills that you’re covering. I do not do this everyday because I want the kids to have enough time to get a good chunk of reading done. I also require each student to complete a weekly reflection that is due to me on Friday. They collaborate to complete the reflection together, but I also encourage them to tap into their own opinions of the story and to not be afraid to disagree with what the group is saying! We all interpret stories and characters differently than our neighbor depending on what kind of a mood we are in. The reflection can be a 3-5 sentence summary written in a notebook, or something more elaborate. I’ve created a Book Clubs Weekly Reflections and More resource that I use in my classroom that contains 10 Weekly Reflections, a final reflection, 10 Questions of the Day and 12 Discussion Starters. Everything you’ll need to support meaningful conversations during Book Clubs!
I also provide discussion starters for students to use when they have time to chat about the book. They’re not required to use the discussion starters, but if they’re all caught up and on schedule with a few minutes remaining in their meeting time, they know that if there is a lull in the conversation (about the book, not Fortnite), they can pull out the discussion starters and use them to facilitate conversation amongst the group.
What do I do during Book Clubs? Circulate, eavesdrop, and enjoy. I chat with one or two groups each day and I listen closely to make sure everyone seems to be comprehending the story. Once you have a routine in place, clearly set expectations, and your students are invested, the 20 minutes of Book Clubs will be a time you look forward to everyday.
Are you ready for Part 2? The next blog post in the Book Clubs Miniseries is all about the HOW. How do you get Book Clubs started in your classroom? What steps should you take to set them up for success? Before you read Part 2, I recommend downloading my FREE Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Started with Book Clubs resource. In it you will find clear and concise steps with a build in planning guide and downloadable templates to help get your Book Clubs up and running with ease! All you need to gain instant access to the step-by-step guide is an email address!
Want more? 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!
I’m so glad you’re considering starting Book Clubs in your classroom! I’m here to help!