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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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On with the book club: What makes a person admirable?

Continuing on with our book club in Language Arts today, we discussed what personality traits make someone admirable. Again, the theme of our book club is “This is who I am” and all of the novels have main characters who display “admirable traits” and strength of character in some way.

I had students write what they thought were admirable traits on the board and here is what they had to say:Book club continued: What makes a person admirable? star photo


-Really cute

-Good singer

-High self esteem


-Make sacrifices for others

-Good personality



-An awesome actor

-Helps me with my basketball playing



-Sets a goal and works toward it



-Patient… and a few others…

We had an excellent discussion on the traits that they came up with, and then worked on trying to narrow our list down to 5 main traits.

Can someone be admirable and also be a horrible singer? Yes, of course – so we took “good singer” off of the board. Can you be admirable without a good sense of humor? Yep! So that “funny” was gone.

We worked our way through the list and finally decided on a few key characteristics that would make someone admirable:

They are kind, set a goal and work toward it, and make sacrifices for others.

The best part is that the class basically hit the nail on the head! The traits that they decided on are ones that the main characters in the novels display. Score! I love it when that happens – everything coming together the way it’s supposed to. They are already making connections all over the place and we’re only two days in. They’re connecting our read aloud, Firegirl, to the anticipation guide that we did on Friday and to the main character that we read about in our last read aloud, Shot at Dawn: World War I. Love it! Super pumped for when they actually get into their book club groups with their own independent novels which will be Session 5… and we’re entering Session 3 tomorrow.

Wish me luck! We’re on to a shared reading piece tomorrow about Myers-Briggs and personality inventories – should be interesting!

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Uncharted Territory…Starting My First Book Club (and an Amazing Giveaway!)

We started our book club yesterday! This is my first one ever (and so I may be asking for advice) but I think the kids are really going to love it! I know what you’re thinking: Why did you launch it on a Friday? That’s another story for another time.

Anyhow, the book club that goes with our grade 7 Language Arts program is themed  “This is Who I Am”. It’s all about the type of person you are, how who you are is reflected in choices that you make and how your personality can sometimes be altered by critical and pivotal points in your life. Perfectly suited for grade 7 – it even fits right along with some of our Health outcomes on choices and friendships.

The read aloud for the book club is Firegirl. It’s not filled with a lot of twists and turns, or complicated story lines. It’s a very basic story about friendship and strength character. A girl joins a class mid-year to be closer to the hospital for her treatments, as she was in a horrible accident and has disfiguring burns. The way the students in the class act toward her is very telling of their character.

I think that it was a great choice for the read aloud for a few reasons, but its simplicity is one of them. I think a lot of my students will see themselves or their classmates in the main characters in the novel. And, at the very least, they must consider what they would do if placed into the same situation. What kind of friend would they be? Would they be brave enough to befriend someone who everyone else avoids? It should be interesting and I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.

What do you think is the most challenging part of running book clubs? What should I be aware of?


Okay – switching gears…

I also have some pretty exciting news for you…An awesome giveaway by Teacher’s Notebook begins today, Jan. 5th and runs until Jan 31st. It’s simple to enter and the winner will receive their choice of an iPad Mini, a Kindle Fire HD or a Nook HD. How amazing would that be? You can enter each day between now and the end of the month – so be sure to take a couple of minutes to get yourself entered! If I win, I want the iPad Mini!


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