Book Club Update: They had glimmers!

Lessons From The Middle, canadian teacher blog,book club discussionI posted yesterday about the issue that I’ve been having with my students just not having the types of discussions that I hoped that they would have (spontaneously, of course) in their book club groups. I told you that I was going to try a few things (I’m still open to more suggestions) and so I just couldn’t wait to let you know what happened in class today.

I started off by talking about their book clubs, if they were enjoying them and so on. I got TONS of insight in this little discussion as to why they were not necessarily “Chatty Cathy” in their book club groups.

One boy said that his book is a good book, but he just doesn’t identify with the female character who’s from another country and has run away from home. Fair enough.

Another student voiced something similar, although he just doesn’t enjoy the book. His character has very different interests than him and he finds it hard to read about someone who is nothing like himself.

One of the girls said that there just wasn’t enough drama in the book for her to enjoy it – nothing was really happening.

Another girl is really enjoying the same book. She said that no one else in her group seems to like the book as much as she does and it’s hard to have a conversation when the other people aren’t into it as much as her.

Another girl said that she was hoping that there would be more to the plot – that the book seems kind of boring and therefore hard to discuss.

Okay, so mystery one – solved. I was under the impression that some of the students were enjoying the books more than they are and that is part of the problem. So how do you get kids to keep up the discussion on a book that they would normally abandon if they’d chosen it on their own? Answers…please?

Today I also showed them a video of a group of students having a book club discussion from the DVD set that we have at the school, mentioned in yesterday’s post. It was a perfect example modelling what their discussions could and should look like. This helped out a lot. They were very honest saying that their discussions look like that sometimes, but definitely not very often. They have been stuck in a turn-taking style of discussion, but they admit they’d like to have more of a conversation style. So…we’re working on it! The first step is identifying the problem – and we’ve got that covered!

 I did give my students their “think marks” as mentioned yesterday and most said that they much rather them over the response that I was getting them to do in their scribbler. I put them on bright paper too, to help “sell” them as a little different. I mentioned the stickies to them and a few thought that they’d like to try them, while others thought that they’d probably lose them.

Next, rather than doing our read aloud first as usual, I had them read their assigned sections, use their “during reading” think marks and then meet with their book club group (rather than having the process span over 2 days). This worked and it didn’t work. MOST students were finished reading their section close to the same time. The few students who are slower to read did not get to join their book club and be a part of the conversation before the end of class. What am I going to do about that? Before, I had set it up so that they were coming in to class, having finished their reading at home and ready to discuss. However, then I had the time-lapse issue, the loss of momentum for discussions and I ran the risk that they didn’t read their sections at all! But now, some students may not get to participate in the book club discussion, unless I hold the others off until everyone is finished. What will they do while they wait? Answers, please? I’d love to hear them!

I did get to meet with two groups and heard some GREAT discussion. Wonderings and predictions, building on each other’s comments and thoughts. It was SO much better! I asked the students at the end, how they thought it went in comparison and they agreed that it was a vast improvement over their last discussion. Yay! I’ll take it!

So now, I want to come up with some kind of simple reflection of each book club session itself, for them to assess the conversations that they’re having as a group and how they could make them better. Tonight’s homework, I suppose…Who am I kidding? The couch and “The Big Bang Theory” are calling my name. I hope it’s a new one! That Sheldon cracks me up!

Thanks for all of the awesome comments yesterday. I so appreciate you taking your precious time to do that. If you have any more comments on book clubs in general – please share!

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About krystalmills

I am a Grade 7 teacher in Prince Edward Island. Lessons From The Middle shares lessons from the classroom, and occasionally from my life as a mom of two young boys. The goal of this Canadian teacher blog is to share middle school lessons, activities and ideas from my classroom and to collaborate with the wonderful online community of teachers out there as well! Thanks for stopping by!   Find me on Facebook Twitter Pinterest Browse my TPT Store Browse my TN Store

Posted on January 24, 2013, in Book Club, Education, General Teaching, Literacy, Middle School and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. One suggestion I can offer for helping students delve deeper into discussion is to help them understand the different types of questions they can and should be asking about their reading. I teach my students how to do Socratic seminars, and they are completely student-led. The goal is to have them ask each other inferential and evaluative questions about the text, so everyone can offer multiple answers. It also teaches them to go back to the text and support their ideas with evidence. My kiddos are able to talk about a short story for an entire period.

    As for having them ready to discuss, I let my students set their own pace, within their groups. Because I wanted to be able to sit with them and hear their discussions (and facilitate as needed), I had only one or two groups meet each day. The other students used that time to do their reading and complete their role sheets (so they had SOMETHING prepared to discuss on their discussion day). I very rarely had students need to take their books home (unless absent) or not finish in time.

    • Thank so much Erin. I totally agree – we do need some more practice on asking questions. It’s a strategy that we were working on before the book club began. They are doing alright with it, for sure, but most groups definitely fizzle out within 15 minutes or less.

      I’m following the guide that goes with this book club, because it’s my first time through. The timing of things is something I’m still trying to figure out. Like you said, if they all read and discuss at the same time, I can’t listen to/faciliate all groups at the same time. So, what I’ve been doing is trying to focus on a group or two a day and then switching back to the other groups the next day.

      Thanks for your insight and sharing your experience! Much appreciated:)