I got past my syllabus and found my handout attempting to explain book clubs.
Needless to say, it's a little sparse. Here are some thoughts on what I need to add:
- Club members choose the books (or other texts) they are going to read. I think I originally left that out since the district required us to read The Pearl and Night. Both good books, but if I was in 8th grade, I wouldn't choose The Pearl. I'd probably choose House of the Scorpion. Clones rock! I also wouldn't do book clubs with books required by the district. I'd probably resist teaching books mandated by the district, just to stir things up a bit. Ultimately, I think the best course of action might be to check out the books, tell the students they won't be tested on the material, and let them read it during Sustained Silent Reading and at home.
- Club members use cognitive strategies (taught in mini-lessons) to understand difficult pieces of text. My lessons early on didn't focus enough on how to discuss in book clubs. We modeled using sticky notes and think alouds, and I had bookmarks with discussion prompts, but there needed to be much more practice with short pieces of text (I think there was one day?).
- When club members choose a book or text they for the most part strongly dislike, they abandon it for something better. A lot of groups would have abandoned The Pearl. Actually, a lot of groups did, just without my permission. During my actual book club unit, there were some books that a lot of students disliked, although it wasn't as bad as it had been with the district required texts. Since my book club unit was centered around a common theme, do I need to have other books that cover that theme that students can choose? Or, if they abandon a book, should they be able to choose anything? Winnie suggested that I take students to the library and tell the groups that by the end of the period they need to all find a book they can agree to read. I want to try this idea, but the problem I see is that tastes will differ within preselected groups, and I'd be curious to see if students could make loose connections between the books read by other groups. Maybe connections aren't important. I don't know.
- Club members discuss things they read that they find significant. Members ask each other questions, they don't answer questions that are teacher generated. My book club discussion guides were too loose in my first unit, but they also had a section where I asked a question. I'm not sure if this belongs on the discussion guides. As I'm moving from group to group, I think it's fair for me to ask the occasional question, but I think my students were able to ask each other good questions when they got better guidance. Still, I never really breached the point where students had more stuff they wanted to discuss at the end.
- Students choose how they will present their book to the rest of the class (from some sort of list or assignment sheet). This part worked out in class, but it was something that needed to make it on to the initial concept sheet.
What else do students need to know about book clubs?