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February 4, 2013 Using Read-Aloud Discussions to Strengthen Book Club Muscles By Julie Ballew
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    If you’ve been keeping up with my blog posts, it’s no secret that I’m swimming in a sea of book clubs lately. I have already shared some amazing work that I’m seeing in 2nd grade book clubs and 5th grade book clubs at my school. This week, I’m happy to share a strategy that several of the 3rd grade teachers in my building are using to make their book clubs more efficient and more purposeful. They are using their read-aloud time to help students strengthen the mental muscles needed for engaged, meaningful book club conversations.



    Read-Aloud With Accountable Talk

    Every day, Mindy Brock and Georgina Benavides read aloud to their 3rd graders. They have a set time for this carved into their schedule, and they plan specific places in the text to stop and think aloud or to stop and invite their students into a discussion. This is different from the kind of read-aloud I had as a student, where the teacher turned off the lights after recess and read us a favorite book without discussion. (As a side note, I believe both kinds of read-alouds can have a place, but I want to be clear on the kind I’m describing here.)

    As far as the text is concerned, sometimes they choose a short picture book with an important lesson, or they might read a longer chapter book over several days to see how characters change over time. Right now, they are in a nonfiction unit of study, so the texts chosen for this read-aloud time are nonfiction.

    Ms. Brock reads an article to her class.   Mrs. Benavides reads a book to her class.

    Preparing for Book Clubs

    This week, Ms. Brock chose a nonfiction article about cold weather to read to her class. Because she wanted all of them to be able to see the text features, she printed out the article and put it under a document camera. Mrs. Benavides chose the nonfiction book Dinosaurs! Strange and Wonderful. Both teachers invited their students to discuss the text at several pre-planned stopping points.

    Students give a thumbs up to show they are ready to share.

    You might be thinking, “How is this different from a normal read-aloud?” The discussion is where Ms. Brock and Mrs. Benavides gave their students opportunities to prepare for book clubs. Instead of having students share their thinking individually or turn and talk to a partner, these teachers asked them to talk to their book clubs every time they stopped for discussion.

    Students talk in book clubs    Students talk in book clubs

          Students talk in book clubs     

    Engagement was incredibly high in every group. Students were so interested in the text that I could see many of them struggling to wait their turn to talk. This is a great problem! They are learning that their thoughts are important enough to share, and they are great about making sure everyone gets a chance to share.

    This kind of practice provides an important scaffold for students. Because the teacher is reading the text out loud, all students are on a level playing field. Instead of balancing the process of reading with the thinking and discussion, students can focus solely on the discussion. This eases them into the independence and the multitasking that book clubs typically demand.

    Teacher talks to students in book club

    Have you tried book clubs yet? I’d love to know how they’re going. Leave a comment below!


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Susan Cheyney