Book Clubs are Starting!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

      I walked into the first week of Book Clubs in kindergarten today.  It was amazing.  Picture it...  Collections of books of their favorite characters, all spread out at a table with readers holding them.  Some were reading the words, others were reading the pictures, some were describing the characters to their friends, all were smiling.   Clifford, No David, Piggie and Gerald, Fancy Nancy and Curious George were the guests of honor.  It was amazing.  Let me tell you why...

The kids were talking about the books, all on their own.

They were listening to each other's ideas.

They were adding their own ideas.

They were applying all those character strategies they have learned this year.

They were READERS.

     I happened to experience this lovely event in Mrs. Surma's room, although I know Mrs. Carrera had done it the day before as well.  After my initial awe at them gathered around a collective set of books and having conversations, I then looked at their written response.  They had spent time reading and discussing books, and then when they were told "Markers up!" they were able to write works to describe their characters.  The words they used were amazing.  In kindergarten, the standard hopes that they can name literal things and infer emotion in a character.  Some of their words?

naughty    friendly     pretty    nice    helpful     messy     fancy     happy     depressed    quiet    patient    silly   respectful

Yes...  They called Fancy Nancy depressed.  Why?  Because she was lonely, of course.  :)
**And no, they did not spell the words correctly.  It actually added to the charm of it all.

     My favorite moment came when they had their share at the end of the workshop.  One of the book clubs came to the front, and Mrs. Surma asked a student from the group why they felt Fancy Nancy was "fancy."  The little girl replied, "I didn't write fancy."  The response?  "That's ok.  Someone in your group wrote it.  Why is she fancy?"  That, in a nutshell, describes what I hope for Book Clubs to be at Hiawatha.  Collaborative.  

     Reading groups are not new to us.  With guided reading, we offer a lot of support.  Reading level wise, as well as conversation wise.  The children are given many scaffolds for success.  In strategy groups and comprehension groups, they get a little less support, but they still rely on us to really lead the group.  Book Clubs can be the point in the year where kids take control of their learning.  They can listen to their peers.  They can share ideas.  They can synthesize what they book says into a collective thought or many new ideas.  They can demonstrate their learning from the whole year, all on their own.

     For many reasons, this year will be an introduction to Book Clubs.  We still have some work to do on getting our students to listen and communicate with each other, in addition to having deeper conversations about the text itself.  Literature Circles could be compared to Book Clubs, but in the time of the Common Core standards, gone are the days when kids only have to know how to do their one isolated role.  They need to know how to use specific lenses in combination with other lenses.  We are raising the bar a bit.  

     In fourth grade, I also happened to walk into the first week of Book Clubs.  I saw their teacher, Miss Betz, sitting with them and explaining the norms for their group.  She explained the Google doc that they would use to collect their thoughts about the setting, signs, and character traits.  She asked them if they had any questions, and then said, "Ok, I will leave you to read now."  She got up and walked over to check on another group, stopped long enough to do a shared entry with them on their Google doc, and then scanned the room again.  

     In Mrs. Horne's room, they were doing Book Clubs using picture books to analyze the setting.  The discussion prompts were on the SMART Board to give their conversations some structure.  What is the setting?  How does the setting change?  What impact does the setting have on the character?  It was actually pretty interesting seeing how the students responded to these questions.  One group had a debate about whether the setting changed or not if it was only in his imagination.  Another group was reading Swimmy, and they said "In the ocean" and were happy to be done.  Because we were listening, both groups got the feedback they needed to help move them along, and then were released back on their own.  

     Book clubs are about the students showing us what they know.  It's where they can show off all those strategies they have learned with us.  It is also where we really need to be listening and watching so that we can provide scaffolded support when it is needed.  But, this is what we have been working towards all year!!!  After watching those kindergartners, I can't wait to see what they will be capable of doing when they get to 4th grade.  Just imagine the conversations they will be capable of 4 years from now!  Fancy Nancy might be depressed, but I am giddy!  


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