Book Clubs Have Begun :)

Do you use literature circles?
I have utilized literature circles for years. Usually, I have started them in the spring once I'm finished with the basal.  This year, however, I've been teaching differently.  I haven't been using the basal as much and have been teaching using different methods. I use a little bit of Daily 5 mixed with a little bit of Reading Workshop.  This year, I feel as if I have been "finding my way" again after so many years of traditional teaching using the basal.

It's been a struggle trying to "figure it all out", but that is why I have turned to blogging so much over the last year.  Reading blogs and connecting with fellow bloggers has literally changed my way of thinking and teaching.  It's been a life-saver for me in many cases.

Book Clubs

I've been using my literature circles since the fall.  I call them Book Clubs because I wanted my students to love books like I do with my own book club.  At the beginning of the year, I told my students about how I am a part of a book club.  I explained how book clubs work.  We all read a book chosen by the next hostess and read that book.   I told my students that they were going to be a part of their own book clubs.  They were thrilled!

In the past, I used jobs in literature circles.   I'm sure you have seen them around:
*Discussion Director
*Vocabulary Finder
*Question Writer

Depending on the resource you use, there are different types of jobs.  If you are interested, you can go to Read, Write, Think and find many resources for job descriptions for using with literature circles.

However, I do not use roles anymore.

My students don't do a great job with the "jobs".  They all want to do each roll. Every.single.time.  I'm not upset about that, on the contrary, I love that they all want to have ownership in all aspects of the "book talk discussions".  It's as if they are at their own little book club dinner group.  {Just without the dinner}.

How do you run Book Clubs?

Just like with my own book club, we have a "host or hostess" each time that is the book talk leader.  I do assign one person to the be leader, but this rotates at every meeting.  Just like hostessing a book club would rotate, too. This leader is in charge of leading the discussions and posing questions when there's a lull in the conversation.

I group students based on their MAP testing and Lexile levels and I usually have 6 groups going at a time.  There are anywhere between 3-6 students in each group.  Once I see the dynamics of the group (based on Lexile) I start looking for books. I do give each group a choice between several books and they decide as a team which book to read.  I explain that this is how my own book club works.

Here's where my subscription to EdHelper has become invaluable.  (And, no, I'm not being paid to tell you this.)

EdHelper has a "Literature Units" database that is enormous.  Just looking under the 4th grade book list alone, there are hundreds of books that have story questions (and high-level, questions, not JUST basic recall information).  I don't want to limit my book selections to JUST the books that I've read. Therefore, I can use these questions and answers to help guide my students in their book talk discussions.  You can also find a wealth of book study resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.

How do you start?

I make a file folder with the questions printed from EdHelper.  I make one for each student.  I distribute these folders at the beginning of our Book Club.  Each student has the questions BEFORE reading that will be discussed during the Book Club's book talk.  I have my students look over the questions before reading, too, so that they can use this to guide their thinking while reading.

I have them get with their book clubs when I first assign the book so that they can preview the book and decide as a group how they want to break up the reading.  They know that they will have three weeks to finish the entire book.  As a group, they must decide how many chapters to read each week.  It works very nicely.  Then, students read their book during their "Read to Self" time of our reading rotations.  They also have the option to read the book at home, during free time, etc.

We meet to have our "Book Talks" each Thursday.  During this time, the students get together and start discussing the book first.  Listening to them talk about the book is my favorite time of the week.  I walk around during this time soaking up all the "book love".  At the beginning of the year, I modeled how this should be done.  I "pretended" with several student volunteers that we were sitting at my dining room table talking about a book.  We practiced with the read aloud that we had just completed.  We just talked.
*Did you like the book?
*What did you think of _______________?
*Why did this character do _________?
*Can you believe that he __________________?
*I was shocked when _________________.

I have given them "thinking stems" for their Read to Self letters and sometimes I tell students to pull these out if they are struggling with what to talk about.   I haven't had to do this the last two book talks! Yay!

When they are finished chatting, I tell them to pull out the questions from their folders.  They discuss these questions and where they are found in the book.  Sometimes, there is quite a debate over a question.  That is when I remind them that they must refer to the book and "prove it" to the other person.  When they are finished, they all go back to their seats and answer the questions independently.

I'm loving book clubs.  My students love them, too.

I can't wait until Thursday each week, now. 

Do you use book clubs?  How do you make it work for you?  I'd love for you to leave me a comment letting me know.


  1. I love Edhelper's questions! I give my kids a full packet to work through, and then we meet once a week to discuss the book and questions. They're a lot more engaged that way. I'm a new follower!

  2. I love your book clubs. My wheels are turning for how I might be able to work this in with my little ones. I love when kids are engaged in reading.
    Ms. Kerri and her Krazy Kindergarten

  3. This is such a helpful resource! I love this post and will need to check out EdHelper. I have seen it before, but I appreciate your recommendation, especially when it comes to book groups. I cannot imagine trying to come up with all of those questions for each book every time :)

    And I know EXACTLY what you mean about blog-stalking and blogging- it has helped me sooooo much as a teacher this year!!

    3rd Grade Thoughts

  4. Elizabeth, you must have been reading my mind! My teaching partner and I were just talking about book clubs/lit circles. We mentioned the feeling of being overwhelmed. Your post made that feeling disappear!

  5. What a great post! Definitely a 5-Star Blogger! Thanks for linking up!

    The Organized Classroom Blog

  6. We started our lit. circles Friday too:) The kids love them.....we write and chat. I just posted a new "Tweeter" (Twitter) themed lit. circle unit at my store:) I'll have to check out Edhelper. I love that they love to read so kiddos read for over 20 min. and were bummed when I called an end to it:/

    4th Grade Frolics

  7. I used to LOVE doing Lit circles!! Next year, it's my goal to do lit circles with 2nd grade! I've got to figure out how to do it with picture books though...

  8. Just found your blog! I love lit. circles....but don't do them with everyone,because we just haven't all reached that point yet:-)

    Chickadee Jubilee

    1. Thanks for following me! I understand not doing the literature circles with everyone...especially at a lower level :)

  9. I do literature circles in my classroom and love doing them! In the spring I do a baseball unit. The books we are using all have to do with baseball. We have five different books being read. I also incorporate some baseball activities - create a jersey, baseball card, sometimes we create our own stadium, bookmark, baseball lunch, our own baseball game, a baseball ABC Book, the possibilities go on and on. The students love this.

    1. Oh, I love these ideas! I bet your students really do love this!

  10. Edhelper is the best $20 a year. I love the idea of giving them the questions to help guide the discussion.

  11. Elizabeth, Thank you so much for this post!! I know I am a little late in seeing it, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE all the info you shared!I didn't even know Edhelper gave those questions! I have been teaching for 12 years, and I have NEVER figured out how to do "lit circles" well. I am SOOO going to give your method a try next year! (no time this year) You absolutely ROCK!!
    Thank you!!

  12. These are awesome ideas! I love lit circles but also have found that the jobs don't work well. So you have students read their novels during read to self time, then preview questions from ed helper and then discuss them on Thursday correct? What do you do in terms of whole group? Do you teach a skill or strategy and have them practice it with their novels? How do you fit in non fiction? Thanks.

  13. Great ideas! How do you fit whole group and non fiction in?

  14. Elizabeth,
    I have been thinking about starting book clubs/literature circles with my 4th and 5th graders. I found your blog through Pinterest, and I love it! (Better late than never!) I have also considered trying to use Daily 5, but I don’t have enough time to do everything. Therefore, I do have a few questions for you. How long is your reading class? How do you structure using a little bit of Daily 5 and Reader’s Workshop? When you do the book clubs, how do you make sure your students are actually reading and not waiting until Wednesday night? Do you have any tips for starting the book clubs? I like the idea of using folders for each student! I also like your grading system and making students “prove” their answers is a great way to get them looking for evidence!

  15. Hi Elizabeth! I'm launching my last round of book clubs for the year (and this time the class is reading the same book by our beloved Jerry Spinelli). So I was looking around the web for ideas to spice up this round of book clubs to be more like a tea or coffee shop meeting. Rather than meeting daily (like we do for regular book clubs), we are going to meet once a week so I want to make it more special and exciting. And since we are all reading the same book, I am toying with the idea of mixing the groups each week. I also appreciate that you grade your students! Why do we feel so guilty about this? I love the way you break it down into 5 points. I'm going to adopt this system for next year! Your post really helped me get some ideas going {and I know it's an oldie on your blog ;)}. Just wanted to say thanks and let you know I stopped by!

  16. Thanks for sharing. It's interesting to see how other teachers run book clubs. In my sixth grade classroom, we meet twice a week. It takes us 2 1/2 weeks to complete literature circles. I do have roles because I love the way these keep the discussion moving. We rotate roles each meeting, which they enjoy. I serve tea and cookies, and I teach etiquette. Before we begin, I actually go through a lesson on how different settings call for different behaviors. The kids really take this to heart. It's darn cute to see.

  17. Just stumbled onto your blog as I was looking for book club ideas on google. THIS IS AMAZING.
    Thank you so much for sharing!! I am even more excited to start book clubs now!! :):)