Up Literary Circles (Book Clubs) Janice
Grade levels: adaptable for grades
3 and up. Content area: cross-curricular
In dealing with the complexities
of an increasingly linguistically diverse population, educators
are faced with the unique challenge of developing curriculum that
addresses the needs of students of all language levels. However,
the matter is further complicated by standards such as the New
York State Language Arts Standards (1997). New York's standards
state that each student should be able to produce a response to
literature that, "engages the reader by establishing a context,
creating a persona, and otherwise developing reader interest;
advances a judgment that is interpretive, analytic, evaluative,
or reflective; demonstrates an understanding of the literary work;
anticipates and answers a reader's questions."
Students need a context-rich language
experience in order to be able to produce the type of work required
by the new state and national standards. Classroom book clubs,
with the appropriate levels of assessment and structure, offer
a step in the right direction. As the book clubs address all four
of the language processes simultaneously (listening, writing,
reading and speaking), they offer a viable option for developing
not only these skills, but higher-order thinking skills as well.
Book clubs can be set up in any number
of ways and should be adapted to suit the needs of the teacher
and students. The following is one way in which students can be
- Students choose their partners
(maximum of 4 students in each club). Students should be in
heterogeneous pairs or groups wherever possible.
- Each club selects a novel (or
story book) to read (approved by the teacher).
- Students should be given approximately
3 weeks to read the novel. (Students can negotiate for more
or less time, if necessary.)
- The students are responsible
for completing nightly homework assignments, which include a
few chapters of reading, finding challenging or interesting
vocabulary words, and formulating at least 3 discussion questions.
Each club should create its' own homework assignments, which
must be agreed upon by the members. Additional assignments should
be done at least four times during the 3-week book-reading period
and should be limited only by the imagination of the group.
Some examples to get them started are:
- draw a picture of your favorite
- write a diary entry from
the perspective of one of the characters
- create a collage which might
be found hanging in the bedroom of one of the characters
and write a brief explanation
- design a gift for the main
- write a poem or song that
expresses a character's feelings
- Students keep a specific folder
or notebook for the book club.
- During the class period, students
share their discussion questions and record interesting responses.
They also share assignments and give each other both written
and verbal feedback. Sometimes students can choose to read their
favorite parts of the book aloud.
- The teacher should choose a particular
group to sit with for each class period and listen in on the
discussion. If interested, the teacher can join an adult book
club and share this experience with the students, to help model
Literary Circles/Book Clubs Assessment
Since book clubs are not traditional
content-based activities, traditional testing would be inappropriate
for book clubs. The portfolio assessment allows for ongoing data
collection over time. Students and teachers can determine what
should be included in the portfolio. It can include "outstanding"
homework assignments (all members of the group must be represented),
salient discussion questions and responses, and a minimum of 30
vocabulary words defined in context from the book.
For a final evaluation students can
submit an oral, written and visual presentation on their book.
The project should reflect a cooperative effort and teamwork should
be one of the evaluation criteria. The students should fill out
and submit a cooperative group evaluation sheet with their project.
Of course, if students are not working well cooperatively, it
may be wise to ask students to submit work individually. Examples
of successful projects include newspapers based on the book, giant
book covers and "in-depth" interviews conducted with the main