Teacher post alert! I needed to take time to reflect…
Trying Something New
So, I tried something new. Thus is the life of a teacher, right? I am always trying new things and each year is always so different. One thing that I changed this year pretty drastically is my book clubs.
Where I started
Each year, my book clubs have become more and more student-led. I remember my first year trying to cram in meetings with each of my groups each week. It was stressful and I felt like I was failing them if I failed to meet. I then moved to having students all meet at once and I bounced around from group to group. I had each person an assigned job and they submitted weekly work to me. I did enjoy this format, but then I decided to turn all of the control over to my students this year.
Turning over control can be one of the toughest things for a teacher. I worry about students completing necessary work, getting along with each other, and staying on task. However, I believe that through good discussions over expectations, it can be done successfully. Here is how I moved my book clubs to more control in the hands of the students.
I began with a questionnaire for my students on what genre they wanted to read, what length of book they enjoy, what their reading pace is, and their overall feelings on book club. I also asked them what they would like their book club to look like. I learned so much just by ASKING my students what their thoughts were and I asked them in a private way that encouraged honest answers. The students were brutally honest. Most had positive feelings towards book clubs, however they wanted their peers to be held accountable for their work, they wanted a positive and encouraging environment, and they wanted the teacher out of the meetings.
After reading through the questionnaire, I then grouped my students in two ways: genre and my personal groupings based on the questionnaire and from getting to know them. I shared both ideas of the groupings and asked the kids what they would like. They asked for the group that I thought they would be best in.
I then told them their groups and took them to our wonderful Lit Center. In years past, we had a wonderful literacy coach who organized the books and kept us stocked with the popular books. We have such a selection that I rarely hear a group complain that they cannot find anything. If they do, it is usually because the book they wanted had be taken. We share this Lit Center with 5 other ELA classes, but I have to say, we usually have great choices available and enough copies for each student to have their own.
I had the students gather together after selecting books and create a contract. This was something new for me. I had them write down what days they would meet during the week or if they would meet at the end of the book. I had them write down consequences for not completing the reading or the task. I also had them write down other rules and expectations and they signed it. I made copies for each student and placed one in their book club folder.
To organize the book clubs, their various meetings, and page numbers, I created a chart that students update after each meeting. They choose the day they meet and how much they read. The only thing I have control over is their task. I have created a Google Classroom for each group, invited the students for that group, and allowed them each to post and comment. I have posted a question that they should answer and use in their discussion. I also gave them a story map to complete together and turn in at the end of the book. I was torn on creating tasks for the students because if it was to be completely student-led, they should do the assigning of tasks. I may talk to each group and see if they would like to take this job on or if they would like for me to do it.
When book clubs meet, it is during reading time and they meet in our pod. They have folders that they keep a record of who did the reading, tasks, and participated in the discussion. They have cards to help keep the discussions going and evaluation forms (both peer and self). These meetings last about 10 minutes and I really only check to see that they are at an appropriate voice level and are on task. I try to keep my distance in order to give them the space to talk freely. The best part of book club is the social aspect and I do not want to hinder that in any way.
So far, I am enjoying the book clubs because I feel that the students are taking it very seriously and are keeping up with their meetings. I feel like I am a little out of the loop, however I plan on doing some check ins with groups periodically as well to see how they are doing. The Google Classroom discussions and evaluations really give me a good idea on how the clubs are going. It shows me where I need to step in and what groups do not need me at all.
I plan to ask the students how these book clubs are going in a few weeks and I will write another post sharing their thoughts. My goal was that the students were reading and talking and enjoying themselves. I also hope that they feel that they are in control and therefore making it more meaningful to them.
Thank you for reading my super lengthy post on book clubs and please feel free to share your thoughts. If you are a teacher, how do you do your book clubs? Students, please share how you think the book clubs are going so far. Also, other book bloggers, please share your thoughts!