Wondering how to include book clubs or literature circles into your distance learning?
This post includes tips, suggestions, and ways to create digital book clubs that will engage your students — even when they aren’t in your classroom.
Let’s get started!
Your distance learning platform
First, look at what your distance learning platform can do.
This can be the biggest challenge — figuring out how the platform can meet your classroom needs.
Look for a feature that allows you to group your students.
You can use groups for study groups, peer review, conferencing…and literature circles!
If your platform allows you to create groups, divide your students up like you would in your physical classroom. I recommend teaching book clubs by genre since that will make your whole class instruction easier.
Ways to use groups
Just like a traditional book club, each group can be assigned a different text to read.
Small groups often work better than whole class instruction because students are more likely to check in and chat in a small group. You may find smaller groups are less intimidating for shy students.
Ideas for using groups:
- you can meet with students in a group through a Google hangout or Zoom meeting to discuss the reading or to present a discussion question
- students can complete activities in a shared document (like a Google document)
- you can post a discussion question for the group to address
- post a poll with a simple question
What if I can’t group students?
If your distance learning platform doesn’t allow for groups, you can still use literature circles.
Start by teaching a whole-class book club lesson.
Your objective for a lesson is for students to identify conflict.
1.Teach a mini lessons on conflict. Make a quick video (two of my favorite platforms are: Screencastify and Screencast-o-matic ). Discuss the elements of conflict you want your students to look for.
Remember that you’ll model the task using your own text. Use a simple task that your students are already familiar with — like Little Red Riding Hood.
2. Assign a specific task you’ve modeled that you want students to work on with their group.
For example, have them to find text evidence of conflict, describe the conflict, or defend why it is a particular type of conflict (person v nature, etc.).
3. Next, each group works together to complete the task.
For our example, the group will looks at conflict in the novel they are reading for book club.
Each group is applying the concept from your mini lesson to their task for book club.
4. Have one turn-in per group — this cuts down on the amount of grading for you and keeps the groups organized.
An easy way for students to complete a group task is to use a shared Google document.
Post a question on the discussion board of your digital classroom and have the secretary of each group provide feedback to the question.
One student in the group should be a secretary, BUT that person needs to change weekly so one student isn’t burdened with the task.
Video meetings. If you can, schedule a Zoom meeting or Google hangout to conduct a book club meeting or check-in with each group.
This is going to be more work to organize, but you’ll be able to check in with students. For this option, keep questions open and make it less about a grade and more about reading for the joy of reading.
Polls. Depending on your platform, you can use polls for daily check ins.
Questions like “What do you think the antagonist of the book you’re reading might have for breakfast?” will get kids thinking about the character (or whatever the focus of the question is) in a creative way. Additionally, questions like this will spark curiosity with other students when they see what their peers say.
Weekly report: (I use a four-week cycle) a different member of the group could create a video with an update. This could be shared with the class, or could just be an update for the teacher. This is a “weekly report” or “progress report.” Often it is easier for students to say rather than write about what their group accomplished.
Refine your focus. Consider why you joint a book club! When having distant learning book clubs, you may want to shift your focus to reading for enjoyment! So perhaps we pare down the tasks that we might do in a traditional classroom, and focus on discussion questions.
Need more help?
And remember that we often learn best when we experiment — don’t be afraid to share with your students that this is a learning opportunity for you as well!
If you want to look a bit closer at my distance learning book club, here’s a link to it.