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April 11, 2014 Author Study Book Clubs By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    As the year begins to wind down and spring fever enters into the hearts and minds of my students, I begin to ponder what June will look like. Students are excited about the warmer weather and all that comes with it. Now I am not wishing my life away and I cannot wait for summer, but June probably has to be one of the most challenging teaching months of the year. A question I ask myself every spring is, “How do I keep my students engaged and motivated, especially after testing?

    For the last couple of years, my students have become involved in independent projects for reading and writing workshop. This year, I decided that I really needed to get a handle on and take note of what my students were reading. Of course they are reading popular titles: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay, Divergent, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and the Minecraft books, just to name a few. Recently, however, I noticed that several students (boys and girls) were reading the same author for homework. My students are required to read at least 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week. It seemed peculiar that both genders were reading the same author. Is there a conspiracy that I am unaware of? 


    Recently, three of my students approached me about creating an author book club. They are all reading books written by James Patterson. They even jotted down some thoughts as to why it would be a great idea to read his books.


    I was impressed with their rationale for selecting Patterson. I have read the Middle School series, but will now have to check out his other offerings based on their recommendations. Patterson seems to be a hit with both the girls and boys in my classroom. The boys seemed to be drawn to the Middle School series while the girls seem to connect to the Witch & Wizard and Maximum Ride series. 


    In our last unit, we read social issue texts through the vehicle of book clubs. To be honest, this project had more teacher input than I would have liked. So I was thrilled when this plan hatched by my students came to my attention. I did remind them that we are in the middle of preparing for the state assessment, but I would give their idea some thought. Little do they know that they have made my day and have given me some food for thought for a reading workshop in June. 


    Creating Book Clubs

    Last year, our staff developer, Emily Strang-Campbell, distributed some great resources for reading using the Common Core State Standards. The strands were dissected into what the students needed to do while they were reading. In planning for book clubs, I had an epiphany: use the resources from Emily (once again, thank you for allowing me to share) to drive the prompts for the groups. Although in the past my students have been involved in literature circles, this year I decided that I would try something new. Instead of the students being assigned to a “job” (note taker, vocabulary finder, discussion leader, etc.), they would be assigned to a standard.

    I created a CCSS book club "how-to" to use with my students. Take a look! The groups will be no larger than four students. It will make for more groups for me to listen to and/or observe, but I think in the long run, the reading work for the students will be more substantial. My "core" group even suggested because James Patterson is so popular that their classmates will probably get their own copies of the book for the book club. That was such a surreal moment for me — my students truly investing in their learning.

     Does your class have any favorite authors that you can create for your class book clubs?  As always, please share!


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Susan Cheyney