In the midst of #social distancing, we are so encouraged to see how creative teachers, parents and students are being! Technology is bringing people together so we can stay connected socially and emotionally even if not physically.
One strategy classroom teachers often use to foster love of reading is getting kids sharing and talking about the same books in a book club. Just because kids aren’t in school doesn’t mean those clubs need to stop. In fact, we think now might be a great time to LAUNCH a new one. So today, we are back today with a step-by-step guide for how to get your kids (or yourself!) in a book club using the online technology available to us today.
Step 1: Consider your students! First, think strategically about who might be a good fit for a book club. Perhaps you have a group of students who are very interested in STEM? Maybe they can all listen to or read the Andrea Beaty series. Is there a group of 4 boys in your class that are LOVING the Amulet series? Maybe you can have them watch an interview with author on youtube? You’ll also want to consider your students access to the internet and social emotional skills as you plan for who should be grouped together. We would also encourage you - don’t overthink it! Your kids are missing their friends and setting up this virtual “community” will be a big highlight for them.
Step 2: Choose a book! Since we can not guarantee that all students will have a physical copy at home, we recommend choosing from a variety of high-quality online options. There are several companies that are making their resources available for free during this time. We’d recommend: Epic, & StorylineOnline
Step 3: Choose a platform to host your book club! You’ll need to know how to use a web-conferencing tool in order to have your kids (or your own friends) together virtually. We’d recommend Seesaw, Google Hangouts or Zoom. Don’t let this intimidate you! Developers have worked really hard to make these tools as user-friendly as possible. We’d recommend trying out the tool a little first. Call up three of your friends and ask them to be your “test subjects”. We’re sure they need a little laugh right now too. In our experience, we have found that kids in grades 3-5 are more skilled at these tools than we are.
Step 4: Gather your students! In class this only requires you to call your students by name, present them with their book club book, and establish a few norms. Unfortunately, this step is a little more complicated. You’ll need to connect with the parents of the students via email and ask them if they’d be willing to have their child participate. You’ll need to offer a short explanation of the technology they’ll be using and the “text” they’ll be reading and discussing together. Many parents are very eager for ideas to support their students learning while at home and would be so enthusiastic about this opportunity.
Step 5: Host your club! Finally and most importantly - try it out. We guarantee that the first time will not be perfect. That’s okay! Connection itself is a sufficient goal. The first time the kids might not have much to say besides “oh my goodness it’s so cool to see 5 of you on my screen!”. That’s okay! We could write another blog post about “What are good conversation starters for a virtual book club”, but for now we are thrilled about getting kids engaged in a shared experience together.
If you are trying this out, we’d love your feedback! Let us know how it worked for you. If you need support, let us know. We are happy to email, text, or jump on a virtual call ourselves to support you.