I love reading workshop! My favorite part of reading workshop is doing book clubs with my students. I’ve tried several different ways over the years. When I first started, I would meet with groups one at a time. We’d work our way through the chapters together, taking turns reading aloud and silently. We’d discuss as we moved through the book and discuss questions after each predetermined section. Groups were usually made of students with similar needs and reading levels. I was the discussion leader and this was more like guided reading than I had wanted. It worked fine, but I felt like there was more I could do to make it mirror real world reading.
Hoping to get more out of these units, I tried assigning the literature circle roles made popular by Harvey Daniels. I backed off as a teacher and encouraged students to do more independently. I wanted to be a member of their reading circle, not the leader. I didn’t prepare discussion questions or activities and I let students determine their reading chunks and deadlines within the unit. While many of my stronger readers blossomed, this layout just didn’t work for all students. I also felt like many groups were missing key parts of the books and still not reaching the higher level of discussion I desired. The roles were too restricting.
I decided book clubs needed to be a marriage of all the things that already worked well for me in reading workshop. Guided reading is great and students need my support. Literature circles are more fun, allow students to make more choices, and breathe new life into reading workshop. How could I put both of those together to achieve book clubs that worked for everyone? Book club packets ended up being the answer for me.
I started doing book club packets a few years ago. I select several books within a comfortable reading level for the majority of my students. Sometimes the books share a common genre, theme, or topic. Sometimes they don’t and are instead just favorites from previous years. I like to allow students to choose their own book, though this doesn’t always work out. I create the timeline and generate discussion questions to help guide students through the books. These discussion questions are used loosely as students gather to discuss their reading and are tweaked through multiple readings of the books with different groups of students. We alternate days spent reading the book (usually independently though sometimes students choose to buddy read) and days spent doing activities about the book. I can stagger my groups on alternate days so that I don’t have to be in so many places at once. While half the students are reading and answering questions, the other half are discussing and creating. The activities they create include character comics, alternate endings, cause/effect charts, etc. All of them help bring meaning to the books and grow my students as readers. They’re learning strategies and ideas to take with them on future books, not just working through their current one. Additionally, I’m able to alternate between being a leader and a member of the group. This marriage between guided reading and literature circles is my favorite part of reading workshop.
It’s time consuming to research books, read the
individual titles, generate discussion questions, map out the unit, and
create meaningful activities. My packets are always evolving, but having a variety of activities to adapt for multiple chapter books has helped the planning tremendously. I’m including a freebie of one of my book activities. You can find entire book club packets and a selection of book activities that I’ve created over in my TeachersPayTeachers Store. I hope they’re what you need to get started creating book clubs that work for you and your students. Happy reading!
Click here to download two book club activity samples. All 21 activities can be purchased in my store.