This book club is not the first time my students have worked together in a group. In prior reflection conversations, I and they indicated the the two main challenges the groups had was that people weren't prepared for the meeting and that their conversations weren't that great. Using that information, I designed this lesson to support their work as book clubs.
I start by reminding them of past group meetings and these two main issues. In this lesson, we are going to review what an effective small group does and provide a focus to prepare for the meeting.
I model very quickly because I want them to generate most of the ideas and this lesson is a review, not an introduction to the concept.
I tell students that in order to list what a good group sounds like and looks like, I have to think back to group conversations that I thought worked well for me and then list why I thought it went well. For example, when I work with other teachers on a piece of curriculum. We do our research before hand so that we are ready to talk, ask questions and give examples. While we are in the meeting, we listen to each other, add on to what people have said, and provide specific examples when we disagree. I add these to the list that I've set up in the front of the room.
Now its the students' turn.
After I modeled how to think of a successful meeting and list the qualities that made it successful, I ask students to help me add more to the list.
Students raise their hand with suggestions for what an effective book club conversation can either look like or sound like.
Once I've filled up the list, I remind students that in order for these things to work, each of them need to be prepared for the conversation. Although, I've assigned it for homework, I wanted to give them a few extra minutes to prepare. I asked them to choose one idea that they may have already started to think about and elaborate that in writing. They are to state the idea, support it with at least one example from the text, and then explain why its important. They wrote down their response in a learning journal.
After each student has prepared for the conversation, I ask them to get together with the group and start their discussing by first figuring out who is going first. 15 minutes for a book club meeting, especially if your students only meet twice or three times a week, seems to be an appropriate amount of time. However, at first, it may seem really long. So after 5 minutes of students sharing or when students start to wander off topic, ask if they can read their book instead of engage in the conversation, or excessively need to use the restroom, whichever happens first, I stop them.
I explain that the job of a book club conversation is not just to share your ideas, one at a time, and then move on to the next person until you are all done, but instead to challenge and support each other; grow your thinking and understanding because someone else who read the same thing as you might have a different idea about it.
Therefore, they need to grow their conversation by making connections between the characters and books, with their own lives, or background knowledge they have about that time in history, they can also discuss phrases or vocabulary that the author uses that is interesting. They can even determine story elements through discussion. Eventually, they can discuss the characters and their side characters in detail.
The important thing is that they keep talking, on topic.
At the end of the group practice, they share what went well in their group.