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!


  1. I teach 6th grade, but in an elementary school. We have 90 min Reading Block still and I started trying to make my small group time more "book club" based the past few months. Do you group based on their book choices or are they grouped first and then choose a book for thr group?

  2. Thanks for sharing how you run your book clubs, Michelle! Great ideas!

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