The first rule of Book Club is: you do not talk about Book Club. The second rule of Book Club is: you DO NOT talk about Book Club! Kidding. The only rule of Book Club is: DO IT!
The book club vs. literature circle debate is ongoing, but I differentiate the two concepts with the degree of student-directedness vs. teacher-directedness. The book club concept gives students more control over their own book study instead of being teacher-directed like literature circles. Don’t get me wrong. I think both are important tools for the ELA classroom. Students need the teacher-directed training of literature circles so that they know how to function in a book club group. Scaffolding is necessary. But once students have shown the ability to be more independent, book club can take students one step further—taking ownership of their learning.
Giving students more autonomy also comes with the added benefit of teaching them pragmatic skills that they will absolutely need in college and life. The first time I had my students meet in groups for book club, I quickly realized that they had never set their own reading schedules! Myself, along with their previous English teachers, had always set the reading assignments. They were engraved in stone on the calendar, sent from the powers that be—straight from the horse’s mouth. So when my students struggled with balancing their reading schedules, it was as eye opening for me as it was for them! And this was a SENIOR CLASS! They struggled figuring out how to set the schedule, and, more importantly, how to follow it. They struggled with how to hold their group members accountable for not just doing the reading but reading closely. But struggle is good. It’s all part of the growth experience although, admittedly, it can be difficult as the teacher to sit on the sidelines and watch.
But what exactly are students supposed to do in their book club groups when they meet? They might need more options and more guidelines other than “Discuss the book.” Giving students options broadens their horizons of possibilities and helps them to think outside the “quote log” discussion box. Below, you will find a menu of book club options for secondary students along with a printable version that you can download and give your students to reference during their meetings.
Let’s get started with some ideas!
Book Club: A Menu of Options
1. Create a TIMELINE of the book so far, including at least three important quotations from the text.
2. Social Media Post—Create a social media profile for the main character and include comments from minor characters as well. Be sure to integrate key quotations from the text.
3. Question Quick-Pick—On slips of paper, each student in the group writes down as many “How” or “Why” discussion questions as they can about the assigned reading and then folds them up and puts them into a container (like a cup) or in the center of the table. Then, each student takes a turn selecting a question at random and discussing it with the entire group.
4. Identify the most important word from the assigned reading and debate/discuss each group member’s word selection.
5. Identify the most important quotation from the assigned reading and debate/discuss each group member’s quote selection.
6. Brainstorm a list of themes for the book thus far. Then, select one theme from the list and find at least three pieces of textual evidence to support it.
7. Write a letter to a character. What would you say to this character at this point in the story?
8. Write a letter to the author—even if the author is unknown or no longer living. What do you want to say to the author? What do you want to ask the author?
9. Make a Connection—How does the book connect to another text such as a song, film, novel, poem, painting, sculpture, etc.? What does it remind you of? How does the book connect to a current or historical event? Discuss these connections with your group members and support your connections using textual evidence.
10. Symbolism Salad—Focus on symbols in the book. Brainstorm a list of symbols. Then, select one symbol and discuss what it means. Be sure to connect your discussion to textual evidence.
11. #Hashtag It—Brainstorm a list of clever, original #hashtags for the book so far. Connect your #hashtags to textual evidence.
12. Rhetorical Relationships—What is repeated in the text? What is juxtaposed (placed side-by-side) in the text? Where does the text shift in action, tone, character, etc.? Where is there contrast? Discuss these rhetorical relationships with your group members and connect your findings to textual evidence.
13. Pick-it-Apart-Paragraph—Select a key paragraph from your assigned reading and annotate it as a group. How does this paragraph contribute to the entire book thus far? Why is this paragraph important?
14. Wordle Poem—Brainstorm a list of key words from the book and create a Wordle Poem at Wordle.net using your list of words. Include textual evidence for at least three of the words your group selected.
15. Six Word Memoirs—Write a short memoir for the main character in only six words. Do this individually first and then share with your group members. Discuss each memoir with the group and connect to textual evidence.
16. Anthem—If the protagonist could select any song as his/her anthem, what would it be and why? If the antagonist could select any song as his/her anthem, what would it be and why? Connect your discussion to textual evidence.
17. Mind Map—Sketch the interior mind of the protagonist and/or antagonist’s thoughts. What does it look like inside this character’s mind? Connect your sketches to textual evidence.
18. Gender Roles—How does the book represent gender roles? What are the expectations for males? What are the expectations for females? How does the text address gender issues and the LGBTQ community? Discuss your findings as a group and connect to textual evidence.
19. Name that Chapter—If your group’s book selection contains unnamed chapters, go back and give each chapter a name. Then, explain your chapter name selections and connect them to textual evidence.
20. Create a New Cover—As a group, create a new cover for your book. Connect your illustration decisions to textual evidence.
Book club is an excellent strategy to bridge the gap between teacher-directedness and student-directedness. After all, our main goal is to enable independence, and book club can facilitate that process. There are many more book club ideas where these came from! If you have any ideas you would like to add to this list, please leave us a comment below. We would LOVE to hear from YOU!!