I have to be honest, one of my favorite parts of reading a book is what happens after I finish it. Meeting with friends to discuss our favorite parts, share ideas and thoughts, and connect around one common book is something I look forward to every time. Applying this same mindset of book clubs to the classroom helps connect students together that wouldn’t normally have a chance to connect.
Another beautifully written book! The two main characters, Delsie and Ronan, both in similar family situations learn that they can handle anything life throws at them. #sd113a #booktalks2019 #sd113areads pic.twitter.com/0OzWSeuqpG
— Liz Janusz (@mrs_janusz) August 24, 2019
As powerful as book clubs are, the idea of managing and monitoring your students can be enough to abandon the idea before you even have begun! Introducing book clubs to your classroom doesn’t have to be a daunting process; just like anything new you teach your students, you begin with a lot of modeling before you let them go off on their own.
For most students, the idea of annotating a text and then discussing their thoughts is a completely foreign concept. Starting small at the beginning of the year by introducing thinkmarks is a great starting place that will set your students up for success for the rest of the year. You can begin with modeling with a short piece of text and students can watch as you think aloud all of your thoughts and stick them on using sticky notes. Once your students see you using sticky notes….you’ve hooked them! They’re going to annotate their text and make so many thinkmarks that you might have to actually tell them to slow down, but hearing the excitement makes it worth it.
— Liz Janusz (@mrs_janusz) August 9, 2019
The powerful part of a book club is what comes next: the discussion among the group. Now, just like you modeled how to annotate, you will have to do a lot of modeling for how to have discussions around a book. Sadly, many students do not have a lot of experience with talking about books and their thinking about it. One strategy I like to use to show how to stay on topic involves unifex cubes!
Once one person starts a new thought, I put a cube in the middle of the group. Every time someone adds on, or asks a question, I add a cube. We try to see how high we make our tower before we run out of things to say. Once we run out, then we start a new tower! It’s a great visual that shows students we can’t just jump from idea to idea and that we should listen to everyone’s thoughts in order to have a deep, meaningful conversations.
Book clubs are also a great way to pull in those reluctant readers and allow them to connect with other students in your classroom. The idea of letting students pick the book they want to read is huge! As an adult, no one is standing over your shoulder and telling you the books that you have to read. Allowing students choice in the book selection is one of the most important things you can do as a teacher. Maybe some of your more reluctant readers will find solace in the idea of another peer wanting to read the same book as them. It could do wonders for their self-confidence!
Book clubs are not only going to enhance your students’ reading experience; but they will also help to build your classroom community and support a culture of reading for all!
Liz Janusz is an Instructional Coach with an emphasis in ELA. She currently is working at River Valley School in Lemont, IL with supporting 3rd-5th grade students and teachers. She has previously worked as a reading specialist and as a classroom teacher before transitioning into her coaching role. Liz has received her Master’s degree in Reading from Roosevelt University. She has a huge passion for ensuring that ALL students should have access to a diverse selection of books. You can follow Liz on Twitter at @mrs_janusz as she shares book reviews, and other tips and ideas, for all different ages of students.