This is the fourth installment in my Book Clubs in the Classroom series.
What is the teacher’s role in classroom book clubs?
In my sixth grade classroom, the teacher’s role varies on book club meeting day. Things can change from moment to moment or day to day. Perhaps a student didn’t complete the reading or an adult volunteer can’t make it that day. It could be that a student has forgotten his or her book club packet or novel. For your own sanity, it’s important to set the stage for success by being prepared. Here are the top five jobs of the teacher during a book club meeting day to ensure success.
1. Make sure students have the necessary materials
The most important job you have as the classroom teacher is making sure book clubs are running properly. If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you have some idea of how to ensure that students are focused and engaged. Read about selecting the right books for book clubs here . You can also read about how to set up your classroom for book club success here .
Extra Copies of Everything
One of the first things you need to find out is if students have brought their novels and their book club packets to class. To minimize interruptions, I keep several extra copies of each novel on hand for students to borrow in class. For students who may have misplaced their packet, I have a file box with several copies each page of the book club packet copied separately. This resource allows the student to get just the pages needed in order to have a successful day. They may staple them into the packet they have left elsewhere. Additionally, I have several copies of the entire book club packet on hand for any student who may have lost the first packet.
It’s not worth my time or class time to make a big deal out of these minor hassles. I am prepared for them so we can move on.
2. Check student work for completion
Another job I do on each meeting day is to quickly check that each student is prepared for their meeting. I usually do this about 10-20 minutes before the meeting is scheduled to begin. Here’s how I move quickly through this process:
I ask the entire class to hold up their packets and show me a particular page. I mark off names of student who haven’t completed something (which lowers their effort scores), and quickly state that they have so many minutes to complete the work. Since students usually have four activities to complete before each meeting, I’m checking four things. Oftentimes, I’ll do this during our reading/preparation time in the days prior to the meeting. This reduces the time it takes for me to check student work on the meeting day, which, in turn, reduces my stress.
3. Give struggling groups more of your time
Ensuring order may mean that you sit directly with a group to redirect them back on task. Perhaps a group is struggling with having a discussion. A few minutes of your time to invigorate conversation may be all that they need. This is one reason it’s important to read all the books you have assigned your students. With your knowledge, you can sit with any group and pick up the conversation. You can ask engaging questions or redirect them if their conversation seems to be off task or at a lower level. You may find it helpful to read this blog post about supporting struggling readers during book clubs.
You may also have to ask a student to leave a book club and go to another classroom only to return when they believe they can participate in the group. If the student can’t, they do their book club presenting with me during their recess. Usually, students want to participate in the group activity, and sending a student out just once may be all the motivation he or she needs to change behavior. Also, if a student hasn’t completed much of their book club packet work for the meeting, I may send them to another classroom to finish up. They will then spend recess with me presenting their portion of the work.
4. Be ready for potential issues or interruptions
This means a variety of things. First, if an adult participant can’t make it in that day, I let the group know. I try to spend time with them making sure they can manage themselves. Other issues can range from kids being pulled out for appointments or a special rally. I try to deal with these beforehand by checking our school calendar to make sure there are no events planned during our book club meeting days.
Communication with home
I email home several times (or send notes home) letting families know the meeting days and times so that potential appointments can be scheduled with these days in mind. These simple actions can make a huge difference in the success of your book club meetings.
Students may be absent that day. Since each group needs a discussion director, you may have to reassign jobs so that one student doubles up jobs if the discussion director is absent This is why I go over the discussion director job with the entire class before we have our first meeting.
5. Sit and listen to discussions and assess listening and speaking skills
My planning and organization is done primarily so that I can take on the role of observer. One of my main goals is to assess students during book club meetings. If I’ve prepared students for the meeting, secured several adult volunteers to run groups, checked for completion of work, and taken the steps to make sure all students can feel successful, I have freed up my teacher time to be the fly on the wall or another member of their group (being careful to avoid dominating the conversation.)
I have a clipboard full of assessment rubrics for the speaking and listening goals (find these in my Book Club Packet here).
I take notes and try to make sure I listen to every student participate. If someone is particularly quiet, I ask that student a question or simply chime in, “La Quan, what do you think about…?” I may also ask a higher-level question to get brains moving in a different direction. Here’s a link to leveled questions to ask about literature. I love having access to this resource because it reduces student stress levels and creates less work for the teacher.
Once you’ve run one full session of book clubs in your classroom (for me this means four meetings), students take more ownership because they know what to expect. This frees up even more of your time to really listen to your students, and what a gift it is to be able to really listen!
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