Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Strengthening the Level of Book Club Conversations

In 5th grade, our students participate in book clubs in at least two of our reading units: Social Issues and Historical Fiction.  This year, I tried something a little different to heighten the level of my students' book club conversations and will definitely do it again next year. 

This year, in addition to using consistent whole class conversations and partner conversations throughout the school year to strengthen their ability to talk about books, I also formed book clubs for some of our read alouds.  For example, in between our Social Issues and Historical Fiction units, I had the book club groups practice how to prepare and have successful conversations around our read aloud, The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen.  

During this week, Melanie Meehan and I acted as a mini-book club to model how to prepare for our conversations and use our writing to have successful conversations during our reading workshop minilessons.  We modeled how to plan for our conversations about The Running Dream, using the chart paper as our reader's notebooks during Tuesday and Thursday's minilessons.  After our modeling, students had time to plan for their own book club conversation for the following day during the active engagment part of these minilessons.  Then on Wednesday and Friday of that week, Melanie Meehan and I modeled how to use our writing that we did on the previous day to have a successful conversation about The Running Dream by having a fishbowl conversation during the minilesson.  After observing our conversation and sharing what they noticed, students went off to have their own book club conversations around the read aloud by using their writing to help them.

Student Example of Preparing for Conversation
Student Example of Preparing for Conversation
(This student even referenced Growth Mindset!!)
By using a read aloud for book club conversations this week, we were able to clearly model and coach into how to strengthen our conversation skills. This indepth work of strengthening students' ability to write and talk deeply about books made a big impact on the level of their conversations and writing about their reading. 

The following week, we launched our Historical Fiction book club unit, but instead of having students begin choosing their historical fiction book club books right away, I had the book clubs focus their conversations  on our picture book read alouds for one week.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of that week, they focused their conversation on different historical fiction picture books that we read aloud such as: Henry's Freedom Box, Freedom Summerand Freedom on the Menu.  During this week, I also had the book clubs create "mini-charts for the historical fiction picture book read aloud that they discussed just like I create charts for each of our read alouds.  I was so impressed by their thoughtful work and the level of their thinking on these mini-charts and in their book club conversations about these read alouds.


After this successful week of talking about the picture book read alouds, each book club chose their own set of 3-4 historical fiction books they will read and discuss during this book club unit.  Their conversations and writing are definitely at a higher level than they were before and as one student said it last week when their work was complimented by another teacher, "That's how we roll in here." :)

Enjoy! :)

1 comment:

  1. This is a GREAT post! I am so into the ideas of book clubs/partnerships. I just had a guest poster discuss how he is using reading partnerships in his classroom on my blog. I think you might find some of the resources useful. Check it out if you have a chance!