You've worked so hard to find the perfect books for your Book Clubs. You've given up almost all of your weekend writing the most perfect discussion questions for those perfect books. You even showed up an hour early to school to arrange your desks in the perfect spots to encourage a Socratic Method style of discussion your students are going to love. The best part about all of this is that you knew your students were going to nail this discussion question like a #boss that you even invited your principal to join in!
So why are you crouched over in the fetal position in the teachers lounge crying like a baby? What could have possibly gone wrong?
What really happened was that half of your students didn't do the chapter reading at home. Of the other half that did the reading, half of those students were not in the mood to have a meaningful conversation with their peers. The last half of students actually read the assigned chapter, but they didn't know how to even have a productive conversation and ended up yelling over each other.
How can all of this be avoided? Can your students actually have a productive conversation during your Book Clubs? The answer to that question is: yes.
First of all, students have completely lost what it means to have a conversation face-to-face with someone else. Texting has ruined that for everyone under the age of 25. Why actually look someone in the eyes when I can just type it into my phone and wait for their response? So, the first thing you should teach your students is how to have a conversation. Discuss the volume of their voice, making eye contact with whoever you are talking to, building onto a discussion by using words like: I agree...I politely disagree....I would like to add...Also, students need to understand that someone isn't always going to agree with you, and that's okay!!
Next, your students need to understand what they should talk about during their Book Talk discussions. Before they even enter the classroom, they should have notes written down or things highlighted in their text to share with the group. You can either have prepared questions for them to fill out, or you can do my favorite thing: Dialectical Journals. My students would each have their own spiral notebook. Inside they would divide the pages in half vertical. On the left was a quote they read that meant something to them. They may like the way the sentence was written, it may have evoked a feeling in them, or it helped answer a question that we had asked in a previous session. We would then all take turns sharing our quotes and others would comment about them.
Lastly, our students need to know when it's time to move on in a discussion. This is extremely important when the discussions start to get a little heated. It's great that your students are excited about reading, but there will be times when it can go a little too far. For example, my students had just read an article about a high school that banned hugging. Even like friend-to-friend hugging. I had some students that were perfectly fine with the no hugging policy, but then I had students who thought the world was ending. This discussion got so out of hand that I had to call parents. Some of my students didn't even get the opportunity to talk that day because it was dominated by two students who didn't see eye-to-eye. I never really discussed with them how to move on and continue with the discussion in a proper manner.
I love Book Clubs, but they aren't effective unless you have modeled what a Book Club should look or sound like. I've included this video because I think it would be something you could show your older students before your first Book Club meeting, This is not my video, but I think it's great!! Enjoy!!
Do you have a great tip to share that works for you??
Laura Gokey is the owner of The Learning Tree and is working towards her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Regent University. She currently lives in Livingston, TX with her husband of fourteen years and her two children.