Student Book Clubs: Bringing High-Quality Literature Discussions into the Classroom
If you're a teacher trying to use book clubs (literature circles) with your students, I feel both your excitement and frustration. It's such an amazing feeling when you get your students talking meaningfully about books they've read, but getting to the point where they're truly able to do that is a challenge. Add to that the difficulties with choosing books and groups, holding students accountable for their work, and should we mention the issue of scheduling?
My colleagues and I have been organizing student book clubs for years (decades, actually), and have had our share of success and failure. My hope here is to share some of my better ideas and materials, in case there's anyone out there who could benefit from them.
First Steps: Beginning the Year
Early in the year, I find it useful to teach students specific roles to play in a literature discussion. These take the form of jobs such as Discussion Director or Artful Artist. The idea is to give the students tools to read with purpose, so that they have something interesting and relevant to share when their group meets. This packet includes eight student jobs and a record-keeping sheet. The second document is a form for groups to use when they first meet, to assign jobs each week, and to plan which pages/chapters they will read each week. I print these on cardstock and keep them all in a "Book Club Resources" binder, available for all students to refer to when needed.
Book Club Packet with Jobs
Weekly Jobs Record Sheet for Group
Kick it Up a Notch: Talking About Books
Later in the year, when students are tired of the jobs, have learned the types of responses I'm looking for, and are ready to have more authentic discussions about the books, I modify the requirements a bit. Each week, the students each get a Book Club Weekly Assignment, in lieu of a specific job to prepare. As they read, their new goal is to think about what they'd like to discuss with their group, be it questions, insights, things they liked or didn't, or examples of interesting or confusing writing. The discussions are much more like what we're used to in adult book clubs: Free-flowing and fun.
Book Club Personal Record Sheet
Book Club Weekly Assignment
Weekly Meeting Record for Groups
Keeping Track: Teacher Forms
Book Club Record Sheet for Teachers
Weekly Job Assignments