Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer Book Club

So a few months ago I saw something on Pinterest about doing a book club with kids. A parent was talking about doing this with her own kids and their friends, but I thought, how cool would it be to make one with my students this summer?

As a teacher I always try to advocate reading and show my love of books. I wish I read as much as I did as a kid; I used to borrow a pile of books weekly from the public library, on top of the books from school, books at home, and even the books my sister was reading. I think at one point, I owned 3 library cards. Now, as an adult, I find it hard to fit reading into my hectic schedule. That's why I've made a challenge for myself to read 50 books this year. And making a book club was the perfect kick off!

I first brought the idea up with my students and asked what they thought of it. About half my class loved the idea, so I thought I might be able to do it. I reminded them that this was their responsibility and they needed to be 100% sure (or as much as possible) that they could and would put effort into it. Plus, I told them they needed their parents on board as well. I wanted to see who was really serious about it. Then I sent an email to parents explaining the virtual book club. Since they already had google accounts, I used google hangouts and made a group for them to type out their responses. Then I found out online that multiple video chat could work too! It wasn't perfect; there were many, many, technically issues so here are my tips if you ever want to start your own book club! I am thinking about even doing this during the school year!

1. Book choice

The Pinterest idea recommended a slightly easier book than their level because you want them to be able to read and understand it on their own. The book I chose was The Runaway Dolls. It's the third in a series I used as a read-aloud to my class so all of them were interested in the book. It's fairly easy to read but still has mature vocabulary that we could discuss.
I gave several options on how to get the book: public library (free), half price, or amazon. Amazon was selling it starting at $0.08 (excluding S&H).

2. Group size

Keep it small. The ideal number for this age group (2nd graders) would be less than eight. Four is ideal. If you want a book club for your whole class, you could have 3-4 groups depending on your class size or levels. Initially I had 9 students interested. That dwindled to 5, due to vacations, other commitments, etc. It was a perfect sized group.

3. Pick a day

I chose Mondays because it was easier for me to remember and it's the start of the week! I first asked parents if there was a time best and then adjusted according to that. I chose Mondays at 2:00. Usually afternoons are better for kids so they're not sleepy. I think.

4. Book club discussions

The Runaway Dolls has 19 chapters, so I assigned about 4 chapters per week (they did pretty well with reading the assigned chapters). Stress to them that they MUST not read ahead! I forgot to mention that, and some students read the whole book! It's hard because they can't make predictions or they forget what happened in a certain chapter. Or they return the book to the library. Haha.

To prepare, I read the first four chapters of the book. After reading the first chapter, I went back and
 made some comprehension questions to ask them. These included simple text questions, inferences
about the text, personal connections to the text, predictions, etc. I also underlined and tabbed all the vocabulary I wanted to talk about. I went a little crazy on the first four chapters and tabbed everything and ended up not having time to discuss them all! So just talk about a few important vocabulary words they may see again in the upcoming grades.

We also discussed a lot of similes and idioms (the book used many) and also had them compare and contrast things. Summarizing the chapter was the hardest because they wanted to tell me everything; that's why typing was good because they could only type one or two sentences.

I assigned homework for them on top of reading. Maybe it's the teacher in me, but reading wasn't enough! But I think next time, I will lay off on assigning homework. Or at least give them just one or two things. One of the things I told them to do was to write down vocabulary words that they didn't know and find the meaning of those words. Sometimes text clues don't help, especially when I read, and often I misinterpret the meaning of a word I don't know. So I think that's good practice, because sometimes you just have to look it up.

5. Technical stuff

Oh technology. I love and hate you. That was probably the hardest part of this book club. The first book club meeting I had we used Google Hangout and just typed. It was actually really wonderful! The only downside is that if you have students who are not great typers they can get very frustrated. The solution to that is that they could use an iPad or something that can allow them to use the microphone to speak and type it out for them. My iPad Air does that, and it's easy for me to "say" everything, especially if it's a long answer. With typing, you don't have to worry about talking over each other and not being able to hear someone.

After the first meet, I tried several times to get the video chat to work. The first time they couldn't hear me. The second time, some students couldn't hear each other; also, because they are minors, video chat doesn't work for their accounts, so the parents (thank you!) made google accounts or used theirs and let the kids get on. On the last day of book club, I asked the students (and parents) what they liked and any suggestions for the future. They enjoyed the book club and the only suggestion I got was to set simple parameters for talking on video chat.

The main problem with doing the multi-video chat was them talking over each other and not focusing on the book club. They got so excited seeing me and seeing their friends, they would get a little silly and get off topic. Which is totally normal for kids, especially in the summer. I didn't want to be too strict seeing that it was an optional activity. Nonetheless, I suggest making simple rules to follow when video chatting. Remind them to focus only on the book club and talk about their summer either five minutes before the book club or five minutes after the book club. Speak only when the teacher calls on you and don't talk over someone.
By the time we all got video chat to work, there wasn't much use to discuss the rules, but definitely I will make sure to set the rules before we video chat.
That being said, I really like the typing method better. Even if a mom started typing for him when he gave up. ;)

Anyway, that's it. Technology was the frustrating part. But I really did enjoy doing it. In the beginning, parents would email me telling me how excited their kids were to get the book and start reading. One mom told me she caught her daughter reading until midnight in the shower stall (with a light)! Even the boys in my book club loved reading the book, which a parent said, they wouldn't have read if I hadn't chosen it. That's what I wanted to achieve with this book club. I wanted them to get excited about reading whether they were reading with their parents or on their own.

As a surprise, on the last day of book club, I told them they had one more assignment (their faces dropped a little). I told them to write it down, and said I would treat them to froyo as a book club celebration! They were so excited!

Hopefully I can do this again, and having this trial run will really help me with my next book club!

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