Wednesday, February 8, 2006

A Beginner's Book Club Observations

I decided to experiment with book club a little bit this semester during my student teaching. One of the big ideas behind book clubs is that they are what adults do: choose a book they want to read, talk about it together, and figure out what it means together.

I decided to see what would happen if that first piece wasn't there. I like the idea of students coming to their own conclusions, and a small group that requires more than a select few students to speak.

To allow some flexibility in the subjects they hit on during discussion while still attempting to get them deeper into the book, I used these book club discussion sheets, which are similar in design to those we used at the university in our own book clubs.

To my dismay, book clubs have not been that effective yet. The motivation does not exist.

I'm not so arrogant as to think that none of this is my fault. I'm sure with practice I might be able to construct leads, work with groups one on one, and teach minilessons that create the desired results. However, for a district to require 8th grade students to read The Pearl is a little misguided in my opinion.

There is a very large Young Adult genre. Why don't we use it more? Students are not going to relate to a native Mexican from the colonial era as easily as a character their own age. Building relevancy is important, but it's an uphill battle if the students don't see any relationship to begin with.

Through Bud Hunt's blog I cam across this discussion on canonical books at Tim Fredrick's blog. It's made me think about choosing books for our students to read (and you can read my initial response there. My response hasn't changed much, though it might be expressed more mildly).

So in a little over a week we start Night. Again, required by district curriculum. I want to continue trying to make book clubs work. Are they tools just for books that students choose, or are they adaptable to required reading as well?

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