Monday, April 18, 2016

Book Clubs

By fourth grade students are more than capable of being in book clubs.  There are often years where I have all but one or two groups begin in book clubs while the others work on another round of literature circles to keep practicing those discussion skills before I give up full control.

For those that don't know the difference, students typically all have one "job" when in literature circles.  They each have that one focus to bring back to the group for a discussion.  The teacher is a facilitator and redirects the discussion when necessary.  Book clubs are student-led.  The teacher is an observer.  Students bring all thoughts to the group and "piggy-back" off of one another to keep the discussion flowing.  I spend a great deal of time at the beginning of the year talking about book club procedures, expectations, etc. to be sure we're all set for some great discussions throughout the year since we are in book clubs constantly. (More on that in another post.)

When planning for book clubs, I use several resources--our book room & personal collections of book sets, the Fountas and Pinnell continuum, my trusty Depth of Knowledge (DOK) sheet, Notice & Note signposts, and our standards.  I don't always tie book clubs directly to our standards as this should be a "real world" application of the standards that the students have learned.  It's a great way to assess what you've taught and how students are doing with those skills.  Sometimes a standard works and I can "check" it off that we've touched on it again, but since I'm not instructing at that time, it's not something that I focus on.

The Fountas & Pinnell continuum is one of the most important assets that I have when planning.  I have the F&P checklist for levels R-Z copied and in my planning binder it's always easily to reference.  There are times that I start with a skill I want to see if the students can handle on their own & other times I choose a book/genre first and then something from the continuum that students can "dig in" with that specific book choice.

               Planning & Organizing Stages

I typically have 4-5 book clubs going at once.  At the beginning of the year, they are EXTREMELY different based on student needs.  As students move levels and get into those upper levels (W on), the checklists start to overlap even more than before.  This means that by the 4th quarter, book club focuses are very similar and the differentiation comes even more from the students and what they bring to group.

I make a poster for each group (by color) that includes the focus for that specific group and meeting dates.  The groups all meet right away to break up and decide ("agree" means majority rules) on what to read by the dates that I set.  One person is sent to meet with me to explain how the decision was reached and it gets recorded on the poster.  Students may read on their own, with partners from their book club, or as an entire book club group.  There are times that I give a sheet that tells the focus and provides a spot for thoughts to be jotted.  I've found that this helps students when the discussion happens (and me when looking for further evidence of reading having been completed).

Posters ALWAYS include the DOK skill that's being worked on.  Our state standardized tests have started to include these with the questions, so I feel it's important for students to know that they've been working on those higher levels (3&4) all year long.

Posters are hung on the back wall and DOK posters (leveled) are always up.

I meet with each group once a week.  They meet together along the way and, if chosen, can read together.  I often incorporate technology into the mix with students participating in online discussion boards via our LMS, Canvas. (We are an e-learning district, so incorporating this along the way ensures no loss in momentum when we have a snow day.)  Another new piece of technology that I've incorporated is Seesaw.  Once or twice a week, students post or record their progress in the book and their thoughts thus far.  This allows me to virtually check on students even if time doesn't allow during the school day.  I assess the students in class and through these online apps to make further decisions on adjusting levels, strategy/small groups, or the need for whole group reteaching.

Want more?  Check out more of my more formal book club resources from my TPT store.

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