January 23, 2016

Getting Started with Classroom Book Clubs

Learn about Classroom Book Clubs, an easy and effective method of implementing Literature Circles!
Have you thought about trying Literature Circles but didn't know how to get started? Or maybe you implemented Literature Circles but gave up in frustration after becoming overwhelmed with the whole thing. If you can relate, stick with me to learn about a method that's easy for you, fun for your students, and very effective.

If you're not familiar with Literature Circles, the basic concept is that groups of students read the same book and meet regularly to discuss their thoughts and feelings about it. Kids love being able to choose books that interest them and having time to talk about the books with their peers, but some literature circles methods are overly complicated and end up burdening students with piles of written assignments. This is especially true of the models in which students assume roles like Discussion Director, Story Mapper, or Summarizer.

I feel comfortable sharing this because I made a lot of mistakes myself when I first implemented Literature Circles. I was so concerned about making sure all students participated that I created elaborate systems involving student roles that were very demanding in terms of homework, reading assignments, and written responses. Those methods were demanding on me, too, due to the amount of time needed to plan for the meetings and grade the assignments. One day I overheard my students complaining about Literature Circles, and I realized I wasn't the only one feeling overwhelmed by it all. I knew I had to find another way.

So I started tinkering with the basic elements of Literature Circles until I came up with the Classroom Book Clubs approach which is less structured, more fun for the kids, less work for me, and still highly effective. I completely dropped the roles and the load of written assignments related to them, and replaced those assignments with ones that were more engaging and less demanding.

Learn about Classroom Book Clubs, an easy and effective method of implementing Literature Circles!

To see how the program works, watch the short video on my Classroom Book Clubs page on Teaching Resources. If you have time, you can also watch a free webinar that explains the process in detail on my Literature Circles page. If you'd like to know how Literature Circles are aligned with Common Core standards, download this CCSS reference guide.

One of my passions as an educator is creating resources to make interactive teaching methods easier. With this in mind, I developed training materials for teachers and began sharing Classroom Book Clubs approach in professional development sessions. However, I wanted to be able to share these strategies with a larger audience, too.

Eventually I decided to record a series of slidecast videos so I could explain the process in detail. (Slidecasts are like audio podcasts that accompany PowerPoint slides.) I also created a planning guide to help teachers make decisions about how to set up their own book clubs, as well as ready-to-use forms and printables to make the implementation process super easy. If you're interested in learning more, you can preview all of these resources on my Classroom Book Clubs page.

I created this resource back in 2011, and earlier this month I decided to update the printables with new fonts and clipart to give them a fresh look. Later this year I hope to update the slidecast videos, but it will be more time-consuming process. In the meantime, the existing videos are just fine because the program works extremely well just as described in the videos.

The updated printables are included in Classroom Book Clubs: Literature Circles Made Easy and my Literature Circles Discussion Bundle. If you've already purchased one of them, you can download the revised version for free! Just look for it on your My Purchases page.

I'm also excited about a brand new Classroom Book Clubs Facebook group I started for teachers who want to share ideas for implementing this approach to Literature Circles. It's open to anyone who has purchased one of these resources. Learn more about how to apply here.

I've always loved to read, and one of my biggest challenges as a teacher was getting my students to love reading too. So it was extremely rewarding to discover that Classroom Book Clubs was one of the keys that unlocked a genuine love for reading in my students! Whether you've been frustrated with Literature Circles in the past or just didn't know how to get started, I hope you'll check out the Classroom Book Clubs approach. "Literature Circles Made Easy" is a perfect way to describe it!

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