Since I've been teaching, I have always done a round of literature circles in my classroom. I would have three book options, I would assign a certain book to a group of students to read, each week they would have one specific job, and then they would meet. They would have "conversations" but really they were only reading from their job page, and then the next person would talk. I wanted to change this. I wanted to see my students have actual purposeful converstaions about a book of their choice.
So the research began. I scoured blogs and different websites of amazing teachers to find out more infromation about book clubs an authentic variation of literature circles.
From all the research I gathered there were two common threads: student choice and purproseful converstaion. So I let the brainstorming begin and out came one of my favorite units this year: Civil War Historical Fiction Book Clubs.
Students had the opportunity to dine at the "Book Tasting Cafe" with Susie and Leverne, and they got to "taste" and rank seven different options. Based on thier rankings and appropriate reading level the students were put into groups of 3 or 4. *I loved giving the students the power of choice!*
Each week there was a method to my madness in the way the book clubs were run. Day 1 included a skills lesson on cause and effect, inferenceing, theme etc. and working with their group to do a book related activity on this skill. Day 2 was the book club meeting and Day 3 was creating a storyboard using the amazing website STORYBOARDTHAT.COM and determining the three most important events of that week's reading.
Lets focus on Day 2- The Book Club Meeting
The students were to do their daily reading at home and once a week they had to generate a list of questions, inferences, reflections or connections about their reading for the week and record them down- this is what I call active reading- thanks Rach! :) They would bring this to their meeting and they would lead the discussion based on thier active reading notes.
Before this whole unit started, we practiced and modeled how to have a converstaion about a book and build off of what others say, instead of just answering the question or saying, "Ok," and moving on. We used a conversation starter guide that I created and this part took practice, but by the ends of the book clubs many of the groups commented about how they were able to just talk about the book!
When the unit concluded- the day before Spring Break, I gave the students an evaluation, becuase I always love to get their input and 32/33 students said that they loved the discussion because they "could just talk about the book," and because "they got to see what other people thought about the book."
For a first timer trying book clubs, I must say after reading the evaluations, seeing thier work, and watching them engage in conversation the whole book club thing was a success!
This doesn't mean there weren't bumps in the road because just like everything there always are! We
learned after week one, it's really hard to have a discussion about the book if students aren't doing the reading at home and if they are not doing their active reading notes either. I must say, after week one- we were smooth sailing in this area!
Can't wait to try this again next year!