Book clubs for students are a great addition to any English classroom (or any subject area). I try to incorporate at least 1 or 2 book club sessions with my students each year. My students like the variety of book clubs, short stories and whole class novels in my English program. You can download my full year ELA plans for free here.
I start book clubs by allowing my students time to look over all of the book choices either in person or by sharing the book links to Amazon via Google Classroom. Students then fill out a paper or online choice card ranking the novel choice options. I use these choice cards to create book club groups. When I am planning book clubs I ensure I have a variety of novel genres and reading levels that would appeal to a variety of learners. I group the students first by choice if possible and then by reading level. I try to give students their first choice of novel unless it is really unsuitable for their reading level (this is rarely the case). Depending on the course I am teaching I have also selected the novels for students, but I think that defeats the true nature of a book club.
When teaching with book clubs I also give students class time to map out their weekly reading requirements, sticky note weekly reading amounts, and figure out all of their meeting dates. All of this information is digitally recorded and shared with students on Google Classroom.
Looking for more reasons to use book clubs in your ELA program? Check out the 5 reasons to use book clubs below.
It would be impossible to achieve consensus on a class novel with 30+ students in your class. Book clubs allow students to select their reading material within teacher/curriculum guidelines.
I love whole class novels, but I do not think that they need to be the 100% diet of an ELA program. It is good to balance whole class novels, with book clubs because you can differentiate the content and novel based on the needs of your students. Since you get to work directly with each small group of students when meeting with them about their book club novel you can change up any of the requirements and assignments on an as needed basis. I usually assign a novel study choice board as my culminating task for any book club unit. For groups who need more support they are assigned less tasks than their peers or even a different choice board. Since each group is reading a different novel, students won’t be seen as different if they are completing different work. I try to do something different with each group so that no one group feels centered out.
It can become costly and challenging to source 30+ novels if you should does not provide you with class sets of novels. I only own one class set of novels (The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton – Affiliate Link) because I cannot afford to purchase 30+ classroom novels and because I love this novel. I can scour used book stores, thrift shops and local libraries to find 5 copies each novel for book clubs. It becomes near impossible to source a class set of novels using that method. Here is a quick reference for where I purchase my classroom books.
Student engagement is higher when new activities occur. You can make weekly book club meetings special by adding table cloths to your desks, serving hot chocolate or hot apple cider and allowing food in your classroom for that period. It will make students feel like they are at a real coffee house having a book club meeting.
Book clubs are a great tool to encourage students to work on and use their collaboration skills. For book clubs to be successful students need to work together and make sure they stay on top of their reading and group work.