Learning Center


Temporarily Suspend Small Groups in Lieu of Book Clubs

november 22, 2013

The few weeks between the Thanksgiving weekend and the winter break provide the perfect opportunity to introduce your students to Book Clubs. With reader stamina built and reader habits strengthened, students are now primed for deeper discussions about longer texts. If you suspend your differentiated small-group instruction meetings for 7-10 school days, you can host Book-Club conversations.

When revealing Book-Club text choices, allow students to have a say in the chapter book or novel each will read.

  • Choose 5 different high-interest titles with which you are familiar.
  • Introduce each book with a 60-second book commercial or a book trailer.
  • Ask individuals to rank their personal choices 1-5 on an index card.
  • Arrange groups with 5-8 students per Book Club.

The first club meeting should be short and include four facets:

1. Pass out the texts.
2. Identify the next meeting date/time.
3. Determine how far students can get in the text before the next meeting.
4. Determine the reading purpose (e.g., What is the problem/conflict? Who is the real enemy? or Did __________ actually do the right thing by breaking the rules?).

Students are then dismissed to begin independent reading during literacy stations and/or at home for homework. (NOTE: Struggling readers can listen to the audio version or read with a partner for extra support.)

Throughout the next 7-10 days, meet with each Book Club 3 to 4 times. Within each meeting:

  • Review the reading purposes and discuss students’ applications of them.
  • Facilitate discussions about the book. (Encourage students to talk to each other and not to the teacher. Avoid evaluative comments about their thinking. Remain silent at times and let students work through their thinking together.)
  • Utilize the Book Club Bookmarks to record the next meeting date, time, and reading purpose.
Book Club Bookmark
  • Encourage students to document their thinking while reading independently. This may include using graphic organizers, sticky notes, or a reading response journal.

Take note that the entire Book Club starts and ends within a two-week period. This is not a long, drawn-out reading that is done as a whole class. Students are moving through texts efficiently. The small-group meetings are simply opportunities for students to have collaborative conversations and deepen their comprehension.


Jodie Pulciani tried book clubs with her fifth graders at Madison Elementary (Lombard, IL), and they love them! Jodie commented that her students can’t wait to read more. And isn’t that what every teacher strives for? Way to go, Jodie!

Small Group Reading - Book Clubs - Sci-fi
Small Group Reading - Book Clubs - Sci-fi

Jodie used a Smekens Education download (Main Idea Chapter Titles) to help her students keep track of their thinking while reading!

Main Idea Chapter Titles Example
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Super Saturday Reading Conference
Easily Assess Reader Thinking with this Simple Handout


Easily Assess Reader Thinking with this Simple Handout