Sunday, May 14, 2017

book clubs

Book clubs! Do you use them in your ELA classroom? Here's a down-and-dirty guide to how I pulled them off in the past few weeks, with a freebie to boot. And a chance for a give-away!

All year, students have had one homework assignment: Read 20 pages of their Just Right books. I track this every day with status of the class. I know who is reading what, who is finishing books, who is abandoning books, who is forgetting their books, etc. This assignment really helps build the stamina it takes to get through book clubs - because the reading and note-taking students do for book clubs mirrors the homework they've done all year with me.

In book clubs, first you have to pick your books. We just completed a Holocaust Unit and so my students read Jacob's Rescue, The Diary of Anne Frank, Night, Behind the Bedroom Wall, and Number the Stars. In order to prepare for the discussions, which happened for about 20 minutes each day, they did their reading and note taking at home the night before. They took notes on this Book, Head, Heart (BHH) Organizer I learned about from Beers & Probst's new book - Disrupting Thinking. Then, in class, I gave daily mini-lessons related to book clubs, and then they had their conversations.

But before they had their first conversation, we used the fish bowl strategy, so I could coach one group while others watched. I think this demonstration and coaching is so important. It also turned out that one of the other Literacy Coaches was in my classroom that day, and she gave me such great feedback on Author's Craft - which turned into great mini-lessons!

Once they saw what I expected book clubs to look like, I used my observations to come up with my teaching points each day. Here's the mini-lessons I gave for book clubs this year, one a day over the course of our book clubs, which lasted two weeks:

  • To participate in Book Clubs, students must come prepared. (We watched and evaluated the work of this book club group, and held a conversation about book clubs. Students also filled out a contract that broke down their due dates for chapters in their books together and also gave them more detailed instructions on preparations, which we went over.)
  • Preparation for book club conversations means taking notes on the parts you want to discuss with your group.
  • Accountable Talk Sentence Stems help us take a small idea and grow it bigger.
  • In book club, conversations are not finished until the time runs out. (Discuss strategies to help propel book club conversation: listening to think rather than to respond, completing notes to have more ideas, etc.)
  • When discussing, we pick one topic and stick with it for awhile by all sharing about it.
  • When a reader wants to share a comment about the book, they should ask all to open to the page, then read the part that prompted the comment, then share the comment for all to discuss.
  • Book club participants wonder, "Why did the author do that?" as they read the text. (Author's Craft - We spent a few days on this one.)
  • We read books to understand the world.
  • We read books to understand ourselves.

After mini-lesson, students met with their groups and discussed. I spent my time observing their work and taking anecdotal notes.

I'm currently working on a PD session about Backwards Design Planning and am in the process of rewriting my Holocaust unit with that framework, and in the next few weeks should have that up on TpT with all the documents associated with this project.

Give Away
In the mean time, if you'd like to read more from Beers & Probst and their book Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters, I have a copy to give away! Please leave a comment or question below about book clubs and I'll enter you in the drawing! You can also read more about that book (which is a book about how students should be reading more than it is a book about book clubs here and here.) Comments on all three of these blog posts will be eligible for the give-away!

Looking forward to hearing your ideas on book clubs! I'm always reminded how much better we are working together than on our own little islands :-)

I will choose a winner for the copy of Disrupting Thinking on Sunday, May 21st, be sure to leave a comment by then!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

after 14 years

It's May and my eighth grade students are at the end of their year and I'm totally feeling the teacher fatigue that comes along with the end of another school year. I've been finding myself becoming less and less patient as the days go by and it just isn't working for me. So when my students came in upset about their end-of-the-year activities (or lack there of because they haven't met expectations) I realized I wasn't going to get anywhere with my plans without letting them be heard.

So I set aside the poem I had in mind for the day and asked them to raise their hands to share.

At first it was just talking over one another, and I had to reiterate a few times that everyone's voice is important, everyone needs to be heard, but then they started listening better, and so could I.

They were upset that their privileges (Six Flags, Dinner Dance, possibly the promotion ceremony) were being taken away. They needed to vent, to let it be heard, so that's what happened.

And then I responded.

Your choices.

Your choices determine your consequences, good or bad.

One student said, "Why couldn't they let us know about the point system earlier in the year? I could have been more prepared." 

To which I replied, "You've got a compliment and then reality check coming your way. Ready?"

She nodded.

"We all know how smart you are, there's no question about that."

She smiled, and I continued, "So don't act like 3 or 6 more months of the points system would have made one bit of difference for you. You would still make the choices you continually do. Your attendance would still be what it was. Your choices about how to respond to teachers would still be what it was, because it's not the system, but that your choices are now preventing you from having what you want."

She did not sit there quietly reflecting. She and her classmates had a hundred buts, most of which involved pointing to someone else. To which I found myself continually responding, "point your finger back at yourself."

Worry about yourself.

Take care of yourself.

Your choices.

No, really.... your choices.

I know it's the age, but it's the hard lessons. There aren't a million chances. Each action in our life has a set of consequences, good or bad. You have to live with the choices you make.

So what's the point of all this? It's not like this is some new revelation - middle school kids wound up at the end of the year.

For me, this was the first time I stopped and let them have time to speak their piece. This was the first time I - purposefully - set aside my objectives and gave time to hear them out. It was the first time I  realized that I didn't want to make myself miserable trying to persuade them to do what I wanted when they had too much on their mind to talk about first.

And after 30 minutes of this conversation, they all got to work. They were doing research... on May 12.... and they all got to work. Even my one kiddo who hasn't had the best time in my class lately, came over to my conferring table as he was supposed to. Huge win.

In fourteen years of teaching, I have learned that if you don't let them be heard, you will not get anywhere with your plans. So give them 30 minutes, (including a dose of reality to their objections) and then they will be able to get to work on your plans.

They will even oblige you with a class picture, and the two students who refuse to come over will be prompted - not by their teacher, but by their peers - to be a part of it too, because it's incomplete without everyone.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...