5 STEPS TO BETTER BOOK CLUBS!
Tips for organizing and managing Lit Circles, Book Clubs and other literary discussions
1. Provide book sets from which students may select.
- Choose about 5 novels that have literary merit and will engage your students. 6 copies of each will usually ensure that students have choices and groups will not exceed 6 members. Be sure that the books reflect a range of reading levels.
- Provide a book talk for each and have students choose which title(s) they would be interested in reading.
- Tip! Have students write down their “top 3” choices. In this way, teachers have a little discretion in forming groups.
- If some titles are particularly popular, include them in another Lit Circles Session. Better yet, encourage students to read some of the other titles on their own.
2. Empower groups to set their own agendas for how much to read and what to discuss.
- The first time groups meet, give them the schedule (i.e., how many days they will have to complete the novel, how much time each day).
- Based on the length of the novel, the groups decide how many pages/chapters to read for each session so that they complete the entire book within the Book Club time frame.
- Allocate time for both reading and talking within the class period (e.g., 20 minutes of reading and 20 minutes of talking in a 40 minute period).
3. Make students responsible for independently reading and preparing for the discussion.
- It is each student’s responsibility to complete the reading before the next session.. There might be class time allocated to reading but some students might have read some of the material on their own time.
- Students are discouraged from reading on past the assigned task, as this could interfere with the conversations and put some students at a disadvantage.
- Depending on the routines introduced in previous lessons, students will have responsibilities to prepare for the discussion. It might be as simple as tabbing (with sticky notes) two “jot spots” in the text to bring to the group conversation. (Here are 20 places to use jot spots.)
4. Allow groups to guide their own conversations.
- An important part of differentiation and self-regulation is allowing the students to guide their own discussions.
- Some teachers assign rotating “roles” to students so that they focus on one specific aspect of the reading to bring to the discussion, such as visual images, questions or connections. The problem is that some passages inspire certain elements and not others. Plus, it’s more difficult to generate back-and-forth dialogue if each reader has attended to a different aspect of the text.
- That said, there’s nothing wrong with suggesting something like, “At your next lit circles discussion, please be sure to talk about…” characterization, figurative language, etc.
- Each student should come to the table with a couple of points of interest for conversation.
- If groups are having trouble getting started, you might suggest starting with a round robin, where everyone takes a turn mentioning one point of interest, question, etc. before the group discussion takes place. These points often generate further discussion. (Click here for more ideas for student-led discussions.)
- Encourage groups to focus on the content and craft of the text rather than “I liked it/didn’t like it because…”
- The teacher circulates among the groups as a participant in the discussion, and should try to avoid taking on the role of leader. However, students might take turns serving as a de facto leader in the group to make sure the conversation stays on track and everyone participates.
5. Introduce some sort of culminating activity or project.
- This step is optional, but students often enjoy sharing what they’ve read at the end of the session. This might take the form of a reader’s theatre, a panel discussion, a slide show, etc.