How Joining a Book Club Transformed My Classroom

I’ve made fierce enemies and even fiercer friends in book clubs. And while I consider them an integral part of my personal and professional life it wasn’t until my recent experience in a National Writing Project book club that I considered the implications for my classroom.
Book clubs are not about assigning kids jobs or grades. They’re about allowing kids to discuss their thoughts and feelings. I read Disruptive Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst at the end of this year and rushed to incorporate the Book, Head, Heart framework.
I realized this is what I had been missing. I don’t want the focus to be about the meaning of a word or a picture of the setting. While those things certainly have their place, the students’ need to authentically discuss their thoughts and feelings supersede any grade they could earn.
Book clubs aren’t about me. Even though I have passionate opinions about the books, I hold my tongue when a student doesn’t fall in love with Stella & Ivan. (BTW, how does that happen?!?)
Book clubs are not the place for test prep. I don’t want them to associate reading with a test. Or 50 multiple choice questions. I just want them to read to like reading. OR to change their thinking. Or, to paraphrase Beers and Probst, to create capable and compassionate readers.
Book clubs create communities. This one is obvious. Professional Communities. Classroom Communities. School Communities.

If you’re interested in book clubs, follow educators like Stacey Riedmiller, who started a Books on Blankets program or Pernille Ripp, who incorporates them into her 7th grade classroom. And remember to check out Cassie’s post on her Mock Newbery Club.

Some of my students participate in a cross-county book club that meets every 5-6 weeks. Sometimes we Skype with the author, but mostly, we just talk. This group consists of teachers, students, and parents. Often, we make our thoughts and opinions public via social media. We are thankful that authors take the time to respond. 


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