Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Reading Groups ...Review, Reflections and Revisions

They did it in The Jane Austen Book Club.

You can certainly do it on Goodreads.

They even do it on Twitter!  See as just one example!

People love to get together and share the books they are reading.  Well, most. If we asked our students, what would their reply be?

So how do we provide opportunities for that kind of sharing and that kind of enthusiasm?  And let's be honest; it's not entirely about the books. It's about the interaction, the socializing, the feedback, the discussion!  That's what motivates! That's why people of all ages participate in Book Clubs, reading groups or become members of forums that talk about and recommend books.

So again I ask myself, where is that in my students' day?

While I do many things I am satisfied with in my Literacy/Language Arts time, the reading part has had me tweaking for several reasons for the last number of years. See part of what I am referring to here.  I hoped to generate interest in books being read by the students by having them share their responses on the walls and to their peers.

I have also set-up "book club" type groups as part of my Reading Workshop.

usually established the groups based on reading levels. Though that didn't mean that everyone had to be on the same one. As long as I felt that everyone could have success sharing the book, I would mix up the levels a little. Personalities and other pertinent factors often play a role in setting up any groups as we all know!

 I usually provided the students a choice of books from which they could select one they wanted to read together.  These selections could be offered based on genre, author, or what I thought might interest them as a group.

And I usually scripted the follow-up activity and discussion by giving each group a guide. While some of these allowed individual responses within the group setting, I felt the talk around these topics would engage the students before they actually completed the tasks.

This guide I used early in the year or with readers who needed a little more support.

 Most of the concepts and/or tasks had already been modelled with the class as a whole or were embedded in Read Alouds/ThinkAlouds so students would be able to complete these independently or as a group.

This one would be used as more of the language we use when discussing texts had been introduced.

Now don't get me wrong.  This approach has "worked".  I feel students have responded well to the opportunities for choice that were part of this set-up.  They were involved in the process from the beginning (sort of).  By choosing the order in which they did each box and which ones to omit, they could tailor the tasks (sort of) to  their strengths and still work on some necessary ELA tasks. Students could also select how they might present their responses (not everything had to be paper-and-pencil).  

And because I work from the first day to establish and support independence and responsibility for decision-making, students work well in groups in my classroom!  Usually! By the time these book groups are set up for the first time, my students have had many, many opportunities to work on their own, with Pair Shares and in groups for varied purposes. So in several ways, this "Book Club" builds off those experiences and that makes a difference to how smoothly they run. 

 In this particular setting, at the "end" of the time allotted, students are also asked to plan the next meeting. They decide how much farther to go in the text and they decide whether to share the reading of the next selection aloud or will set pages to read - in-class- silently.  Or perhaps they will be ready to move on to a different box. Or the plan may include assigning catch-up reading or finishing an activity to some members. Thus it is students who shape the flow of the meeting and the completion of the day's activity.

I want more.

More time for just  reading and talking and recommending and reading!

More ownership of the process and whatever product may come from these get-togethers. 

I want more of what readers, real readers do when they do a book club! 

So what would you suggest?


  1. I haven't done them yet, but I'd like to try... EdCafes... It seems as if you want more authentic discussion, and this may be where you can find it: I, too, have strived for authentic reading activities. It's the reason behind me doing Genius Hour in my ELA classes. We read, and if we read something good, we share. If we want to read more about that subject, we do. This is all individual, and all independent reading. The rest of the week I have to have some control (in order to get through the "curriculum"), but our independent time is reading whatever they want, and sharing when and how they want. I'm a big proponent of choice, and it sounds as if you are the same! I'd love to try these EdCafes some day for books I'm asking them to read for class (not their independent reading). I think it would work great! If I try it, I'll have to blog about it to share - if you do, please share with us! Thanks for this post - my thoughts exactly.

    1. Joy, thanks for the comment and for the suggestion of EdCafes! They do look like something to try. I have done many types of grouping with my students (I have all tables in the rooms rather than desks) and have established book groups as well where the students are given the responsibility for running them each time they meet. I use "Status of the groups" calls at end of class to quickly hear of plans/issues.
      I like the idea of signing up for sessions that interest them with this model. I did wonder, in her first "independent"sessions, how she handles groups that may fill up more quickly than others!
      I think I would tweak this a little with ten year olds but it's do-able.

    2. I think you should ask Katrina! She's very friendly and I'm sure she'd answer. If you do, please post her answer here! ;-)