Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Clubs in the Primary Classroom

We are at the end of our informational reading unit and my kiddos are now working in book clubs. Book clubs are typical routines in the upper grades but they don't happen as much in primary classrooms. In my opinion, the key to successful book clubs is not expecting perfection. Yes, I do expect my students to work hard, and I do expect them to do their best work. However, these are not MY book clubs, these book clubs belong to my students. What I am saying is...Let go! Let them have at it. It's going to get messy, and that's o.k.
In the first grade classroom book clubs will look and sound different from their upper grade counter parts. After all, this is the first time my kids have participated in a book club. A big part of the learning is to expose them to what book clubs are and  how we participate in book clubs. First graders will study a topic and then talk and listen to each other as they share their learning.  The final piece is to sharing their learning with the entire class.

First, I presented the topics: Snakes, butterflies, turtles, polar bears, and wicked weather. I chose the topics based on the books that were in my classroom library and based on the interests of my students. For example, I have a group of boys who love snakes. I knew right up front that I would make snakes one of the topics for a book club. Next, students were placed in groups according to reading levels. It's tempting to put students in mixed ability groups so that students can help each other. However, by placing kids in leveled groups your stronger readers are not taking over and your lower readers are more likely to add their voice to the conversation. After that, groups chose their topics and got to work. They read their books during independent reading time and jotted notes on Post-its. Later, they shared and discussed their notes with the other members of their groups. Finally, the created posters to share their information with the class. Every group was required to represent their findings using a poster. I could have given them choices as to how they would share their findings but I felt that too much choice would be confusing for our first time working in book clubs. Even though they were all using posters, I still had kids asking me if they could draw pictures on their posters, or if they could use markers, or could they show words and pictures, etc. My response to each question was..."I don't know. I'm not in your group. You'll have to discuss that with the other members in your group and see what they think about that idea."

I'm convinced that giving them too many options would have made things a bit confusing for our first time out of the gate. However, you know your kids best. Perhaps your kiddos would be able to handle having lots of options right up front. The consensus from other first grade teachers that I've chatted with, who were also doing book clubs, was that giving them too many options was a lot for them to take on.

Additionally, my students are accustomed to using their Wonder Books two to three times each week. We use these books to record our wonders using the Wonderopolis website. I think our book clubs went very smoothly since my students were already comfortable with "wondering" and asking questions. In the beginning of the school year I had student who didn't know how to wonder. Or at least, they didn't THINK they knew how. Those same students now typically record five or six "wonders" in their notebooks each time we do a wonder of the day. I'm really proud of the work these students did. Take a look and let us know
what you think!
Book Club Weather from Valerie Ruckes on Vimeo.
We are going to do book clubs again in the spring. At that point I plan to give them more choice as to how they will present their information. Now that they have an idea of how book clubs work, I'm sure they can handle having more options and a choice of how they demonstrate their learning. I'm getting excited just thinking about it! Have you tried doing book clubs in a primary classroom? What worked for you? Please leave your comments and suggestions below. I would love to hear you ideas.

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