I am a proud bookworm. I love to read and I work my way through dozens of fiction and nonfiction books each year. (And yes, I still prefer “real” books to audio and ebooks.)
I believe that I love reading because I had teachers who were passionate about sharing reading experiences in the classroom. When I became a teacher, I knew that I needed to help my students to find their love for reading. Book clubs were the answer! I split my class into four leveled groups and we enjoyed book club time every day during reading groups.
I know that everything is different when it comes to teaching this year, but that doesn’t mean that you need to give up the book clubs. Book clubs in a virtual classroom help to increase engagement and excitement about reading.
Let me show you how to implement simple and effective virtual book clubs…
Each of your book club groups are going to need a book. They can read the same book, but it’s rare that one book is ideal for each group. Honestly, it’s more fun for me to get to read three or four different books with them than to read the same book four times in one day!
You can use just about any chapter book with your book clubs! There are a couple of things that you will want to take into consideration.
What standards are you going to be teaching during the next month or so?
If you are teaching literature standards, then I suggest choosing fiction books for your clubs. If you will be teaching informational standards, then you will want to choose nonfiction books.
What books do your students love?
It’s a good idea to learn about the types of books that your current group of students enjoys. Send a quick Google Form survey to get an idea of what books they are reading and genres they love. You don’t want to choose the exact books they are already reading, but you do want to choose books that compliment what they are reading. For example, if they love Harry Potter, maybe you want to look for another fantasy book.
What level are your readers?
You don’t want to choose books that are going to completely frustrate your students and you don’t want to choose a book that bores them either. Spend a little time getting to know your readers so that you can choose books that are a level that challenges and excites them.
Also note that the books for each group do NOT need to be the same length! Oftentimes my lower readers had a shorter book and finished it before my highest group. No problem! The one group can just start on a second book. There is no need for every group to finish and start a new book at the same time.
A book club is going to be significantly more successful if every student has the book to read from. This was easier to accomplish when we were teaching in person and weren’t worried about sanitizing every book.
But, if you are creative, you can still make it possible!
Here are some ways that you can get the books that your students need:
- Order inexpensive books from Scholastic. You can often find books for a dollar or two and even have them sent directly to students.
- Start a Donors Choose project. Ask for the books that your students need and then mail them or drop them off when the project is funded.
- Put the books on an Amazon wish list. You can put the wishlist on your personal Facebook profile and ask friends and family if they can help. I have seen so many lists cleared!
- Ask parents if they can order the book. Some can and some can’t, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Use online books through Epic!
When I first started doing book clubs, I would assign certain pages or chapters to be read by a specified time. It was a mess. Students would lose their book. A good chunk of them wouldn’t complete the reading assignment. Some overachievers would read the entire book and then give major spoilers to other in the group.
The reality was that it wasn’t fun because we weren’t having a shared reading experience. I made reading into an assignment instead of an experience.
When I saw that this was not working, I made a HUGE adjustment that made my book clubs infinitely better.
We started doing the reading together in small groups.
We were all reading the exact same page at the same time. It was a shared experience. We were laughing together and sometimes we stopped to admit that we were confused by something.
I love to choral read with my book clubs. This is when you all read out loud at the same time and pace.
I am not a fan of round robin reading at all! That is where someone starts reading and then you randomly call on another student to start where the last student left off. This really puts students on the spot and can make them anxious. Many of my students struggle to stay focused and follow along if the reader is a little slower than they prefer. Plus, it takes forever because the new reader never knows where to start!
So how can we do this in a virtual classroom?
You can meet with your book clubs via Zoom or Google Meets! Schedule a 20-30 minute block where each group logs in. Students have their books in front of them and you read together as a group.
So if you have three different book clubs, you might block off 10-11:30 each day for reading groups. This gives you thirty minutes to meet privately with each of the groups.
Practicing Reading Skills
I bite my tongue and refrain from stopping to ask a million questions. Stopping and starting is a terrible model of fluent reading and never leads to someone saying, “I absolutely love reading because as soon as I got really into the chapter, my teacher stopped and asked me a question about character traits.”
So how are you going to use these book clubs to practice important skills without asking a million questions?
(That is the exact question that I asked myself when I started doing these books clubs!)
I started by assigning each student a book club job. Maybe one student was the Illustrator and another was the Word Detective. After we read, they would complete an assignment based on their job. Then we would rotate jobs.
I quickly ditched the book club jobs!
I hated that every student was not working on the skill that we were specifically covering in whole group reading lessons for the week. If I am teaching about central message, I want every student to be practicing central message.
Instead of jobs, I decided to start assigning the same task to every student in the club. The task was directly tied to the skill we were learning as a class. If we were learning about sequence, then all of the students in the book club might create a time line with the sequence of events in the book.
This made book clubs a huge win! Students started to score higher on our curriculum assessments because we were practicing the skills with our book clubs. (Plus, it was so much easier to have my whole class doing the same assignment than to have six different assignments happening at the same time.)
Can these tasks be done virtually? Absolutely!
We created Google Slides versions of all of our book club graphic organizers. These are super simple to upload to Google Classroom. Plus, we included directions so that you can download it as a PowerPoint. You can use this format in Team, Canvas and Schoology.
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I suggest spending the majority of your book club time reading- maybe 20-25 minutes. Then you can spend the last five or ten minutes discussing the book and explaining the assignment.
I am super excited to hear how book clubs help to get your students excited about reading!
Have a Not So Wimpy day,