Thursday, January 30, 2014

Getting ready for book clubs...

Hello everyone! We were back at school today after yet another day off for rotten weather. It sure is hard to have any continuity when we are gone a day or more out of every week!

Our next big unit in reading involves historical fiction book clubs. Getting fourth graders to have meaningful book discussions takes some planning and some practice, so we are practicing by reading and discussing Sarah Plain and Tall as a class. It is the only novel I do all year where all students read the same thing, so most of it is read aloud or done in partners so that everybody is supported at the level they need.

The real heart of the unit is to help the students get a good handle on what the genre of historical fiction is all about so they are better ready to tackle their own novels in the upcoming weeks. The other major goal is to get some practice having quality book discussions. We have done some short discussions in small groups of mixed reading levels so that all students can get some practice having a quality discussion, so I am hopeful that we are building up to some quality book discussions when we do our book clubs starting next week!  I really want my students to have discussions like real people...where they piggyback off each other and don't simply read off a question sheet one at a time.

I have blogged about this before, so if you are interested in reading a little bit more click here to read a post from the past!

Today was our fourth day of having these little mini book discussions, and I was really noticing that students did not seem to know how to behave in the groups so they were on task and not disturbing other people. They seemed to be having decent conversations, but I could tell that not everyone was 100% committed to the group.

I pulled the class together, and we did some brainstorming about what a film crew would expect to see if they came to our classroom to make a movie about how to have a good book discussion.  We had already had many lessons on how to piggyback off other people's discussions, how to stay on topic, how to be encouraging, and more. I guess I did not get into specific details about what I should actually see when looking at their group. We made a list on the easel together and even pulled one of the groups up front to do some modeling so we could see exactly what we would expect to see during a book discussion.

After our brainstorming session, I took all their ideas and turn them into an anchor chart for us to keep up and referred to throughout our unit.

NOTE:  "Typo" has been fixed on poster!  "of" should be "off"...will fix pic soon!

Tomorrow we will test out our new knowledge and see if students can keep their bodies in control, keep from spinning their books on the carpet, sit up and close in with their group instead of lounging on the floor, and so on!  I am confident that the time we are spending practicing will pay off tenfold next week!  Stay tuned!


  1. I love your idea about the film crew . . . brilliant! I'm going to use that! :) I like reading a common book whole-class too before we branch off to our leveled groups. I call it our "touch stone". I keep referring back to the book all year. Love Sarah Plain and Tall as well . . . there can be a lot of depth in that story if we look for it, huh?


  2. What a timely post! I am launching literature circles on Monday. Today we watched a video I made of my students last year and we talked about the behaviors and expectations. I will definitely be copying your anchor chart for Monday's mini lesson :)