Book Clubs in the Classroom

Do you use literature circles?
Literature circles are a great way to get your students excited about reading. I utilized literature circles for years. Over the years, I found that I needed to adjust how I ran these literature circles based on my students' needs.  I finally found a system that worked for me. I created Book Clubs.

Book Clubs

I called my literature circles "Book Clubs" because I wanted my students to love books like I did with my own book club.  At the beginning of the year, I told my students about how I belonged to a book club and  I explained how book clubs work.  In my own book club, we all read a book chosen by the next hostess.   I told my students that they were going to be a part of their own book clubs. They were thrilled!

How do you run Book Clubs?

Instead of using different "roles" or "jobs" like with literature circles, I created groups with just one person "running the show".  With adult book clubs, the host or hostess usually guides the discussions. My students followed this same example and we had a "host or hostess" each time we created a new Book Club.  That person became the Book Talk Leader.  Each week, the Book Talk Leader would be someone new.  This leader was in charge of leading the discussions and posing questions when there was a lull in the conversation.

I grouped students based on their MAP testing and Lexile levels and I usually had 6 groups going at a time.  Each group would consist of about 3-6 students.  Once I saw the dynamics of the group (based on Lexile) I started looking for books. I would then give each group a choice between several books and they decided as a team which book to read.  I explained that this is how my own book club works, too.

I had a subscription to EdHelper and it had "Literature Units" database.  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 didn't want to limit my book selections to JUST the books that I've read. Therefore, I used 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 made a file folder with the questions printed from EdHelper.  I made one for each student.  I distributed these folders at the beginning of each new Book Club session.  Each student had the questions BEFORE reading that would be discussed during the Book Club's book talk.  I had my students look over the questions before reading, so that they could use this to guide their thinking while reading.

I had my students get with their book clubs when I first assigned the book so that they could preview the book and decide as a group how they want to break up the reading.  They knew that they would have three weeks to finish the entire book.  As a group, they decided on how many chapters to read each week.  It worked very nicely.  Then, students read their book during their "Read to Self" time of our reading rotations.  They also had the option to read the book at home, during free time, etc.

We would then meet to have our "Book Talks" each Thursday.  During this time, the students got together and started discussing the book first.  Listening to them talk about the book was my favorite time of the week.  I would walk around during this time soaking up all of 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 had also given my students "thinking stems" for their Read to Self letters and sometimes I would have students pull these out if they were struggling with what to talk about.

When they were finished chatting, I would tell them to pull out the questions from their folders.  They discussed these questions and where the answers were found in the book.  Sometimes, there would be quite the debate over a particular question.  That is when I remind them that they must refer to the book and "prove it" to the other person by citing the text.

I fell in love with Book Clubs and my students did, too.

Do you use book clubs?  How do you make it work for you?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

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