Back to school, after three weeks off, I figured we’d have a slow start and lots of distracted students. I was right. But, there was also an undercurrent of excitement. It had nothing to do with vacation or whether or not they saw Star Wars. It was anticipation.
They had spotted new notebooks tucked in the corner bookshelf. Club books were in the bookcases. Kids sat at tables with their hands up in the air.
I walked over to D. “What’s up?”
She whispered, “When are we starting clubs?”
I smiled and said, “As soon as we can get settled on the carpet.”
As students move I hear, “It’s about time” and “do you think we’ll be together?” and “I can’t wait.”
I ask, “What do you know about being in a book club?”
I hear “you get to share”, and I hear about the sticky parts of the work or as N put it, the ‘cons’ of reading in a club. As they talked about the troubles, I wrote on the board.
Troubles with book clubs
- When we can’t agree on a book
- You can’t do your own thing.
- When someone doesn’t read or come to talk with ideas.
- When people goof off during talk time.
“Hmm.” I thought out loud. “So with all that trouble maybe we should forget this whole club idea?”
“Really why?” Talk exploded, and I charted their talk.
Why book clubs are good
- We get to talk about books
- We are pushed to do more
- Other can help figure things out
- We can make friends
“Ok, this sounds like clubs make reading social. But we have to be careful. The books need to be the center of the social.”
At this point, I handed it over to them. I tell them, it’s their job to find a group of like readers. Readers who would push them to reach their best reading self.
I hear, “We get to pick our club partners?”
In the past, I’ve engineered their clubs. Looked at reading levels, reading habits and jockeyed them into groups. And even with all of that planning, it was far from perfect. My students know each other well, they know themselves. By taking charge of their choices, would they create working clubs? Are they mature enough to be focused on the reading and not the friendships?
Most find foursomes, there are a few groups of threes. I got their attention and said, “Your first job is to pick your name. When you have it, come down to the carpet.”
In less than five minutes, most clubs are ready. Two groups in the back of the room, are still working out a name. I tell them to take a break, and I put them on a mental list for small group work. If they can’t choose a name, how could they choose a book?
“Next step, you need a set of rules or guidelines that can help you through troubles your club could face. You can call it a constitution or a rule book. Find a meeting spot and start working,”
Off they went. And the talk is intense. With, “what about…” and “what if…”
In the back of the room, I see a group with their right hands in the air. I walk over.
“We’re making a pledge to each other.”
“Yes, and one of the big rules is it has to make reading fun.”
“When do we get to get books?”
Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.