Reading Tips

How To Run Simple and Successful Elementary Book Clubs

Are you looking to change things up in your next reading unit? Try book clubs! Here are a few simple ways to run successful book clubs in your elementary classroom!

What are book clubs?

Book clubs are small groups often divided up by reading level. Each group is given a novel that they read together over an extended period of time. After each time of reading, the book club gathers to discuss their thoughts and predictions about the book.

Who are book clubs for?

While students can learn to read in small groups at a young age (and often do), I have personally found the elementary book clubs are best for 3rd-5th grade.

By this age, students are reading to learn rather than learning to read. It is more age appropriate to expect students to take an idea about the book, dig deeper into that idea, and then discuss it with peers.

How do I begin?

For me personally, I found it extremely helpful to give my students a running record reading assessment in order to identify their reading level. In my school, we give these tests often throughout the year to track student progress, so I was able to use my recent records to put my class into book club groups.

Grouping by reading level is important because finding a book that could span from a low reading level to a high reading level would be nearly impossible to find. However, you may find other ways to group your students in your classroom.

Next, books need to be chosen for each group. In my classroom, I chose a book for each group and assigned it to them. You could, however, choose a couple of books that would fit each book club and allow the club to choose.

Find a note-taking system

Finally, set up a system. How do you plan for students to take notes while they read? How are they going to focus their reading? How should the group behave during discussion? If these questions don’t have answers, then book clubs will not be affective.

I suggest that you make a plan.

Pick a focus question each day that would guide each reader’s thinking. Give them a place to take notes as they seek to answer that question such as a readers notebook or stick notes. Come up with book club discussion guidelines so that students have a clear understanding on how to conduct themselves in an academic discussion setting.

Come up with discussion guidelines

But how do I manage the groups?

This time around, I found it helpful to gather all of the students before we began reading. I would discuss the focus question of the day and give examples of the answer using other books we had read together as a class.

Then, the clubs would decide on how much reading they thought they could accomplish that day, with a little guidance from me occasionally.

Some clubs could read five chapters a day because the chapters were so short and others could barely read one because they were long. Each group will differ.

Have a focus question each day

Next, each book club member read on their own quietly around the room. While they were reading, they were taking notes in order to answer the focus question and give them points to discuss when the book club gathered.

I found that this format worked well for my classroom. It cut down the temptation to talk or digress to nonacademic conversation.

You might find, however, that your students work better if they can read together as a group or listen to an audio book together. Each class is unique, so find what works for you!

Then, I could call the book club groups together, and they would immediately begin discussing their thoughts about the reading, and their answer to the focus question. I would circulate around the room to listen in on conversations, ask follow up questions, or challenge students to thinking deeper when answering the focus question.

How do I end it?

After about 10-15 minutes, I began to see that student conversations were no longer about their books. Therefore, I would gather all of the students again for a wrap up. I would point out clubs or students who were doing an excellent job during the discussion. I would point out great answers that I heard from the groups. If needed, I would give a few reminders about behavior for the next time, but I tried to keep the wrap up upbeat and positive.

A culminating project

Once every club had finished their books, we did a culminating project to tie it together called The Book Trailer Project.

Students were given a packet to guide them through the planning process. The goal was to create a commercial, similar to a movie trailer, that would share just enough about the story to get the listener hook, but then leave them in suspense. Our class chose to present with decorated posters, but this project could be done by making a PowerPoint or an actual video.

What did you think?

My students LOVED it! They loved that they were all reading something different, and the chance to gather with a small group and discuss their book. The students loved taking ownership of their club.

Overall, I would say it was a great success in my classroom and well worth your time if you would like to try it!

Are there any tools that can help my students?

Yes! As I mentioned earlier, students can use sticky notes or readers notebooks. However, if you are looking for something that is a bit more guided, I have created a packet called My Book Club Journal, and it gives students the space to plan, take notes, and reflect each day. I recommend putting this packet in a small binder as students will be collecting a few sheets each reading session.

I also have created Daily Reading Focus Question cards with 24 open-ended questions that will push your students’ thinking. These questions cover theme, character, story plot, setting, and more!

And finally, I created the Book Trailer Project that my students used as a club to put together a presentation of their book. This packet is perfect for planning any kind of book commercial that you choose.

The Ultimate Book Club Bundle

I hope that this post was helpful as you get started with your book clubs! I am continuing to learn and grow in every type of reading technique, but my past experience was too good not to share!

Happy reading!

Looking for book club tools?

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