Monday, March 28, 2016

Lessons Learned from Student-led Book Clubs

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this space for me to share my corner of the world.

My students recently completed their first round of student-led book clubs.  Overall, I think they were a big success, but I still have questions and kinks to work out.


Here was my basic process:
  1. Students had a book pass where students looked at all book choices.
  2. Students ranked three books in order of preference.
  3. I put groups together according to book preferences and book availability.
  4. Students read books outside and inside of class.
  5. Students recorded questions, thoughts, and wonders on a bookmark or sticky notes.
  6. Three discussion days were scheduled with reading assigned.
  7. Students completed a self-assessment.

Lessons Learned

Keep books in sets of 6 - I wanted to give my students many choices, and I have worked diligently on acquiring book sets to accommodate five periods and over 100 students.  Because I had some popular titles such as Crossover, Circus Miarandus, and The Walk On, I divided my six copies into two sets of three so they could be offered in two periods.  Dividing the books up did not work, because some of the groups were too small, and I had more students who preferred the book than the number of books I had available.

Groups vs. Choice - This first round I had students rank their top three book choices. Then I put the students into groups according to their choices.  The feedback I received mentioned that they wanted to be placed in groups first and then choose books as a group.  I have never tried this because I always thought that the choice in books should be the most important factor.  Since middle school is such a social time, I am rethinking that maybe next round I will try groups first, then let them choose a book.

Focus on Discussion - My students enjoyed the discussion days, and many students asked to have more discussion time.  I had them write questions, thoughts and wonders on a bookmark so they would have specific points to discuss.  I learned I need to model what these discussions should look like.  Many groups answered their questions, but did not know where or how to lead the discussion deeper.

Questions I Still Have

Here are some questions that I still need to answer and research.  Feel free to add your advice, expertise, and wisdom in the comment section.

  1. Do you let students read ahead or keep to the assigned reading schedule?
  2. Do you require a certain amount of response or questions for discussion?
  3. Do you put choice first and then groups, or groups first and then choice?
  4. How long do you spend in each group?
  5. Do you organize book club selections according to subject/theme/topic?  For example, social justice.
  6. If so, what are they?
I do know that I want to continue with book clubs.  Middle school students are social, and talking about books makes reading them even more enjoyable.  Creating those experiences is always my ultimate goal.


  1. I love reading about what you're doing with your students! My 3rd graders work with me in small book groups, however this is really great to see it happening as they are older! I hope that my kiddos will one day be able to be a part of something as awesome as this. I have found choice is key, and also that when we choose books together, we all have more invested! :)

  2. I love that you share what you tried along with what worked, and maybe might be changed. I really like the subheading and the way your organized your observations & questions in your writing. I think these are the fears many have that hold them back from doing something like this. I'm going to share your post with teachers I work with to hopefully get them thinking this is something they can try in their classes! One thing I'm wondering about...we've had the challenge in many classes with a handful of struggling readers who can't necessarily tackle the text independently yet. Did you have this issue at all? ow did you tackle it? I see a lot of teachers hesitant to just assign reading because of this concern.

  3. Have you read Mini-Lessons for Literature Circles by Harvey Daniels? This book has great suggestions for starting and maintaining book clubs. Also do you use the sign posts from Beers and Probst? Those create great discussion points for students. I'm a fan of book choice first, then groups. I think the group would have a difficult time coming to consensus on a book. Someone would be unhappy and therefore, disengaged. Good luck with your second round!