April 25, 2012

Book Clubs that Promote Discussion and Higher Level Thinking

Hands down...book clubs are the best part of my day.

I love reading and discussing books with my kids and I actually read along with my students.  Seriously!  I read to the designated stop page and prepare for each meeting.  I'm just another member of the club. I try to keep up with all of my book clubs, but it can be tough. Sometimes I fall behind, but I'm always kicking myself afterwards. I find our discussions are always 150% better if I have just read the chapters and it is fresh.  Even if I have read the book before, I reread. I've read Because of Winn-Dixie at least five times...great book!

The best part about meeting in book clubs is I get to read with all my kids. Does anyone else find themselves meeting with their lower readers way more often than their high readers? Isn't it nice when you meet with your top readers?  It's like a vacation from teaching.  You just sit back, relax, and enjoy the conversation.

Again... best part of the day. 

So, here is what we're reading right now:

The Secret Soldier is new to me, but my kids are captivated. I love that it is a true story.
Horrible Harry and the Dragon is perfect for my kiddos reading below grade level.
Babe & Me is a fantastic book.  I always get my girls and boys hooked on this book/series. They love it! Plus... baseball.  :)
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is a classic.  I haven't read it in years, so it has been fun to read about all of Fudge's crazy adventures.  Poor Peter!

Now, I have seen twenty different and wonderful ways to run a book club or literature circle including the different jobs (summarizer, visualizer, etc.) Over the years, I have tried many of these models, but I really love what I'm doing right now.  It is simple, easy, and my students love it!

They come prepared to discuss what they have read at each meeting. I used to use post-its, but I was flying through them. Now, I have a reading response sheet.  It looks like a lot, but it's really very simple.  The kids don't feel hassled filling it out and it always offers us a great jumping off point for discussion.

Book Club Thinking Discussion Sheet

Their favorite thing to share is their golden lines.  I start talking about golden lines in the beginning of the year during read alouds.  I explain that sometimes we read a sentence or a paragraph and that line just sticks with us.  We create a great mental image from it. It reminds us of something meaningful in our lives. It just seems important in the story...maybe a turning point. It makes use laugh. It's the moment when we figure something out about the characters or the plot for the first time.  I tell them there is no wrong answer, just find a line that speaks to you.  You would be amazed with what they come up with.  So many kids pick up on foreshadowing without even realizing it. :)

Now, as much as I would love reading to be just reading, realistically we live in a world where I have to give my students a grade.  Books clubs can be challenging to grade because all students are reading a different text at their instructional level.  I can't simply give a quiz on what was read.

 Below is the sheet I created to grade my students on book clubs.

Book Club Rubric

I am choosing to grade my students on their participation in our discussion and on how prepared they are when the come. I just follow the rubric.  Easy.  Each meeting, the student can earn up to 8 points.  I will then calculate their final grade based on points earned out of possible points.

So far everything seems to be working really smoothly.  My students are spending most of their time reading and talking about the books, not filling out worksheets.  I've been really impressed with the level of discussions and the eagerness with which students read and beg to meet with their group.

All and all... I'm loving my new system.
I hope some of you find it helpful as well.
Happy Book Clubbing!


  1. I love your reading think sheet...already printed it out and can't wait to use it. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    1. I'm so glad it was helpful. Let me know how it works for you and if you find ways to tweak and improve. ~Amanda

  2. Thanks for sharing! I love the simplicity of your book clubs. Sounds very manageable!

    1. It's so easy for both me and my students. I love that they spend the time reading and not filling out a lot of paperwork. They are so eager to be part of the conversations and have all kept up with things! It's a win-win for everyone. Thanks Jordan! ~Amanda

  3. I love this-thanks so much for sharing! I have always wanted to implement book clubs and have half way done it several times but it has never stuck because I didn't like my system. I am very excited to try your method-thank you so much!!!

    1. Please let me know if it works out for you. I'm still always tweaking things, so please share if you discover ways to improve and fine tune! Happy reading! ~Amanda

  4. I love the way you use book clubs in your class! So simple with higher level thinking going on. Thanks for sharing your response sheet and rubric. Will definitely use in the future. Do you assign chapters to read for homework? How much time do you spend with each group? The discussions you have with your students are so valuable. I am currently doing book clubs but through Edmodo. They answer weekly questions and complete quizzes via Edmodo.

  5. At the end of each meeting, my students and I decide our next stopping point. We usually read 2-3 chapters depending on the book and the readers. We meet every other day, so they really have to stay on top of things. Luckily, that hasn't been a problem. They always know that they have one full day of reading before we will meet again. We just flip flop between reading days and meetings days.

    I try to keep all the reading in class because books that go home have a very small chance of returning and many of the books we use are my personal books, not the schools.

    Our meetings are usually 15-20 minutes, although we have been known to go longer when the conversation is really good. Nobody seems to find the extra 10-15 minutes of reading time. :)

    Thanks! ~Amanda

  6. I'm using book clubs as well and also love them - I use what I call a "book about a book" to help keep them on track, which is basically a booklet with four half-pages that include vocabulary, what I call "active reading" (some sort of thinking and writing to do as they read" and then comprehension/response questions to complete after each section. It was lot of work to get it set up but now that I have about 15 books ready, it's easy.
    I agree, it's a lot to keep up with the reading (I am SO behind on Elijah of Buxton currently with my higher level boys' group!) but it's worth it. I've seen so much growth in their comprehension and analytical thinking over the past two quarters.

  7. I am beginning book clubs for the first time next month. Would you be able to email me the two sheets above? Also, do you have a group meeting each day? Is there ever more than one group meeting on a particular day? I'd love any advice you have:)

  8. Is there a way to get your sheet without joining scribd?

    1. You can also download the discussion sheet from my TPT store for free.

      Book Club Discussion Sheet


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