Slice of Life: Student Made Book Clubs

Back to school, after three weeks off, I figured we’d have a slow start and lots of distracted students. I was right. But, there was also an undercurrent of excitement. It had nothing to do with vacation or whether or not they saw Star Wars.  It was anticipation.

They had spotted new notebooks tucked in the corner bookshelf. Club books were in the bookcases. Kids sat at tables with their hands up in the air.

I walked over to D. “What’s up?”

She whispered, “When are we starting clubs?”

I  smiled and said, “As soon as we can get settled on the carpet.”

As students move I hear, “It’s about time” and  “do you think we’ll be together?” and  “I can’t wait.”

I ask,  “What do you know about being in a book club?”

I hear “you get to share”, and I hear about the sticky parts of the work or as N put it, the ‘cons’ of reading in a club.  As they talked about the troubles, I wrote on the board.

Troubles with book clubs

  • When we can’t agree on a book
  • You can’t do your own thing.
  • When someone doesn’t read or come to talk with ideas.
  • When people goof off during talk time.

“Hmm.” I thought out loud. “So with all that trouble maybe we should forget this whole club idea?”


“Really why?” Talk exploded, and I charted their talk.

Why book clubs are good

  • We get to talk about books
  • We are pushed to do more
  • Other can help figure things out
  • We can make friends

“Ok, this sounds like clubs make reading social. But we have to be careful. The books need to be the center of the social.”

At this point, I handed it over to them. I tell them, it’s their job to find a group of like readers. Readers who would push them to reach their best reading self.

I hear, “We get to pick our club partners?”

In the past, I’ve engineered their clubs. Looked at reading levels, reading habits and jockeyed them into groups.  And even with all of that planning, it was far from perfect. My students know each other well, they know themselves. By taking charge of their choices, would they create working clubs? Are they mature enough to be focused on the reading and not the friendships?

Most find foursomes, there are a few groups of threes. I got their attention and said, “Your first job is to pick your name. When you have it, come down to the carpet.”

In less than five minutes, most clubs are ready. Two groups in the back of the room, are still working out a name. I tell them to take a break, and I put them on a mental list for small group work. If they can’t choose a name, how could they choose a book?

“Next step, you need a set of rules or guidelines that can help you through troubles your club could face. You can call it a constitution or a rule book. Find a meeting spot and start working,”

Off they went. And the talk is intense. With, “what about…” and “what if…”

In the back of the room, I see a group with their right hands in the air. I walk over.

“We’re making a pledge to each other.”

“Yes, and one of the big rules is it has to make reading fun.”

“When do we get to get books?”

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.


19 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Student Made Book Clubs

  1. I love how your students are truly the center of their learning! It feels like you give, they run and you corral in a bit, but the core is respect, knowledge, reality and understanding of each other. Good luck with your voyage with self-grouped lit circles. I know there will be great ups & downs and I’d love to read about them.

    Dang it! I want to be in your class or the classes of many people we share with through our SOL community. Truly, as a child who read and would have had fun playing with writing, if I’d had the confidence and the chance, I wish I got to experience the workshop mode as a kid.

  2. Thanks for taking us to the actual goings on in your classroom. What a fun and active place to be! Good luck. It takes courage and patience to put it into the kids’ hands, but it’s important and valuable.

  3. I would love to try this in the school library, but not sure how to do this when we have class only once a week. I love the idea of letting the students drive their groups.

  4. A constitution? Rule book? LOVE this!!! I can feel the energy and enthusiasm of your students and I can’t wait to hear MORE about student book clubs! You always, always, always inspire me!!!

  5. This is a great idea! Maybe I’ll start my own book club for girls. I’m an author not a teacher, but what a way to get in front of my readers. 🙂 I’ll have to ponder this one!

  6. I’m interested to know more about the “pledges” they were making to each other. Sounds like they were having a norms conversation without even knowing it!

  7. I like hearing your observations of the groups, Julieanne. What a wonderful morning it must have been for all, including you! The agency in your students shows so well that they are ready to take this new challenge of being responsible for the choices, who & what & how. It’s great to hear all about it.

  8. I am getting ready to start book clubs with 5 periods. Not sure how much control I can give them yet with my first time doing it with this many students. You have given me some things to think about.

  9. Our 4th & 5th graders are in the middle of book clubs right now. They’ve never done them before and they love it. Thanks for sharing your insights on how to roll out book clubs. Looking forward to hearing about the books they chose!

  10. Love reading your post about getting started with book clubs. We just finished our Mock Newbery in our after school club and spent some time today looking for our next focus. They surprised me with their next choice, biographies and memoirs!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s