As teachers work creatively to consider adaptations to many of the face-to-face classroom experiences that we value so much, we’d like to share one classroom experience that lends itself naturally to remote teaching and learning:
Below you will find a series of tips for organizing remote student book clubs that support student engagement, conversation, and deepen students’ understanding of the texts they read.
First, start by drawing on what you already know works face-to-face and then consider ways to hold onto these same principles for remote clubs:
Principles for Book Clubs
- Choice. When students have some choice or input in what they read, they are more likely to be motivated and invested in their book clubs.
- Ownership. Consider ways for students to take the lead in preparing for and holding book clubs. For example, have students work together to set goals and create a schedule for how much they will read in preparation for a book club meeting.
- Explicitly teach children how to participate in effective book clubs. Plan for mini-lessons that explicitly teach your readers the skills and strategies needed to be an active member of a successful book club. These mini-lessons will likely cover how to prepare for book clubs, how to have meaningful conversations that build on one another’s ideas, and how to think deeply about the books the children read. See the brief clip below for an example of a mini-lesson that helps students prepare for conversation:
Next, consider adaptations to ensure that your readers have ways to keep engaged with others, even if they are not seeing each other daily in their classrooms. In several classrooms we found the need for additional layers of accountability, but wanted to do so in a way that did not mean reverting to worksheets or other low-level tasks simply to keep kids on track.
- Flipgrid is one outlet for children to record their thoughts prior to conversations.
- Padlet is a platform students can use to share their thinking in between discussions:
- Jamboard is another free and easy-to-use platform that is accessible from your Google account. In Jamboard students can share ideas on sticky notes (consider assigning a color to yourself and each student). You can then encourage book club members to respond and provide feedback yourself!
Some children also benefited from sketching their ideas prior to discussions. Many of our ideas for sketchnoting came from this awesome resource, Ink and Ideas: Sketchnotes for Engagement, Comprehension and Thinking by Tanny McGregor:
Finally, just as in the classroom, don’t be discouraged if your readers’ conversations are “flat” at first. Learning how to listen to each other’s ideas, build off of those ideas, refer back to the text together to unpack a scene, challenge interpretations, share an opinion and so on are skills learned just like others.
The best way to support your students with these skills is to model the behaviors you want to see and scaffold their practice. You can do this through interactive read aloud, small group read aloud and discussion, and coaching into book clubs. Of course all of these instructional opportunities can be done on a video platform such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meets in a whole group and/or break-out groups!
To model what a successful book club looks and sounds like, you can mimic the fishbowl experience online by having just a few children engage in conversation while the others turn off their video camera but observe the small group. Then together you can debrief what the observers saw and heard.
Whatever you do, remember that trial and error is okay. In fact, these days, it’s essential! Just know that when you give your students a purpose for reading, and in this case that means actively participating in a book club, you will see a greater level of motivation and investment. Nothing but good can come from that!