“I love this” – an actual quote from a seventh-grade student as he met with his book club. I told the student I would be quoting him; he smirked at me and said, “go ahead, this is going to be fun!” My teacher heart was so full. Getting middle schoolers excited about reading is one of my favorite parts of teaching middle school language arts. It also can be a challenge to get middle schoolers excited about reading. So how did I get my students excited about reading a novel the first week back after Spring Break? I gave my students’ choices. I let each student be in charge of what they wanted to read.
We hear the buzz phrase “student choice” in education a lot today, and oftentimes we as educators can easily become daunted on just how we can work to enact student choice without feeling like our classroom is in chaos and that every kid is learning something meaningful. With these daunting challenges ahead of me, I made it my mission to ensure that my book clubs worked for my students by giving them a selection of nine titles to choose from.
My co-teacher and I selected nine texts at various reading levels and lengths, all with connections in some way to World War II to provide a commonality tied to the students current social studies unit. Students were presented with a “Bookflix” Keynote created to resemble the homepage of Netflix. The cover of each book was displayed for students to see and then click on to view a book trailer about that text. A copy of each book was given to each student table group. We let the students flip through each book: read the back cover, read about the author, really enjoy the options in front of them. It was awesome to hear students chatting about which books they found interesting. Students were taking ownership of the learning because they were given the choice to do so. At the end of class, I reminded students to talk to their friends in other class periods and at lunch about what books excited them and which titles they wanted to read.
I had a Google Form set up for students to record their first, second, and third options and why they felt that book would be a good fit for them. This allowed me to ensure that I had enough physical books. Certainly, some titles were more popular than others. But, what impressed me the most, is that students were indeed stepping to the plate to challenge themselves when it came to this reading assignment. The four “highest” leveled books were the most popular. Using the results from the Google Form, I was able to pair students with one of their three choices to create small reading groups, “book clubs”, in each class period.
The most important part of establishing our book clubs for me as the teacher was finding the best way to truly be able to give my students choice because nothing beats seeing my students engrossed in a book; so engrossed that they are reading at every possible free moment during class. Our Book Clubs are just getting underway, I will keep you posted as we move forward!