Scheduling within Book Clubs

This is the first year our third graders will be experiencing book clubs, and as expected they are THRILLED to be having the experience of reading and discussing a text with their peers!

Today I was in Mrs. Obrotka’s class and was so excited to see how she has kicked off the unit since the start of it last week.  She created packets for the entire class which included materials to guide and support the discussions the students would be having.  What was incredible about these packets were the way in which they were designed as reference tools and not worksheets that asked specific questions about the designated texts that they had to search for the “right” answers to.  Instead, it included sentence stems, overarching concepts of print found in biographies (since they are all reading books on historical figures), and choice boards to name a few.  Some students commented on how they enjoyed this because it made the unit feel like a project that they got to choose how to do it.


In our last meeting together Mrs. Obrotka and I had also discussed how keeping a monthly calendar can become a useful tool to organize conferencing within club groups.  As the teacher you’ll want to make sure that even though you are doing a book club format that you still allow yourself the liberty to pull students for individualized needs.  As a means to make sure that you can keep track of both the club groups and strategy groups a calendar can be a very effective method.


bookclub calendar

When I asked Mrs. Obrotka how it’s been working, even in this brief time, she said that it really helped her to keep track in her planning and meeting with groups because she knows she doesn’t want to delay the upcoming meetings.  Often times the conferencing sessions in book clubs can become so intense, and I found in my classroom, I too often lost track of the time spent with each group because I was so intrigued by the great discussions they were having.  When I started to implement the calendar into my routine it served as a reminder that I needed to wrap my sessions up or soon I’d be backed up and wouldn’t be able to keep my committed dates.

Mrs. Obrotka also mentioned how she feels it will help the students with personal accountability because in the group meetings with her they discussed certain ideas or concepts that needed to be delved into before their next meeting with her.  For example, one group was focusing on a choice board activity today that asked them to come up with five adjectives that described their character or an event and to support it with evidence from the text.  The group knew that they needed to complete this by Friday in order to discuss in further detail with their teacher.  The calendar was hung on the board where it was accessible to everyone and served as a constant reminder of all the great goals they were working towards discussing in their upcoming meetings!


Post-it Mats for Book Club Discussions

We had a visit from our lovely reading consultant, Kirsten Widmer, last week, and we discussed the best methods for creating meaningful dialogue within a book club group and then, as the teacher, how to confer into that.

One of the great ideas that Kirsten brought to us was to create a post-it mat with squares where each club member comes to discussion with a post-it from their independent reading in mind that they will place on the mat to discuss further with the group.

I was SO excited when I went into Mrs. McCarthy’s fifth grade class today and saw that all her groups were in the midst of trying it out!  The best part came at the end when Mrs. McCarthy asked for volunteers to give their feedback on the mat activity.

One student said that the post-its helped him focus on events that he hadn’t really thought about when he read, but once his club members brought it up in their post-it he looked at it more deeply.  Another student said that they didn’t really go around sharing each post-it, but that it helped to guide the conversation when they felt they were running out of ideas.

It was great to see such a simple tool enhance the dialogue between teammates and helped them to stay on task!

The day of the workshop I sat with Mrs. Obrotka, a third grade teacher, and we discussed how you could scaffold the mats with more support as needed.  In third grade, where they are still getting used to the format of how to speak with peers in a constructive way, we decided to create place cards in the middle of the mat with sentence stems that they could practice using when responding to each other.  Stay tuned as I hope to see these in action in the next couple of weeks!

Please feel free to share other ideas of ways to implement the post-it mats into classroom instruction!