Slice of Life March Challenge: Saturday, March 29th., 2014 – Going Digital with Book Clubs

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           The March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by  Two Writing Teachers  

I’ve blogged about all the work that goes into launching our historical fiction genre study before here, here, and here – it’s probably my favorite genre, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to frame the unit, and then actually launching and conducting it.  Sometimes, I wonder if all the time spent is truly worthwhile; it always comes right before testing season, and I can’t help but notice that we are reading “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” while the sixth graders next door are up to their eyeballs in test prep.  These days, our evaluations are based in large part on the scores our students receive in their NJASK – a sense of self preservation tells me to cut back on the HF unit and spend more time prepping for the test…but my other self, my real teaching self, says, “NO! This is more important – this is what they will remember!” So, I listen to that second self.  I suppose I may well come to regret this IF my scores-based evaluation number sinks next year … but I’m going to borrow Scarlett O’Hara’s philosophy: I’ ll think about that tomorrow.

…meanwhile, in our classroom, we have listened to book talks, decided on our book club books, and are preparing for our first meetings on Thursday.  This year, we are going digital.  Each book club group has their own blog with resources and the initial questions up and ready for viewing, thinking, and responding to. Here’s what that looks like for one of our selections, Nory Ryan’s Song:


What did you learn about events taking place in the time frame of your book?
How do you think these historical events will affect the story and the author’s purpose in writing this story?
Respond to these questions, then read and comment on each others’ thoughts before your book club meets next Thursday.

During our readaloud, we stopped often to learn about “events taking place in the time frame”, and found that what we learned deepened our understanding of the book, and made us feel much more involved in the story and invested in the characters.  There was a sort of parallel learning going on – part literary, and part historical – that knit together for a rich reading experience.  Often, a question was raised and we would turn to the internet for a quick history fact check or clarification, and that would help us form better theories about the story or the character’s progress.  So, I thought that these book blogs would function as a way to set my kids up with resources to practice doing the same in a more independent way.  The blog also allows them to begin the conversation before they meet – to jump start theories and questions before they meet face to face.  I plan to print out these “conversations” for their meetings on Thursday to serve as reference points that would sound like:  “remember when you said…?” , “what did you mean when you wrote…?”

By this morning, a few of my students had already jumped in (these book blogs went live on Friday afternoon – they work fast, my sixth graders!) to comment on what they had learned and how they thought this new learning would help them “get” their stories.  Some, who are reading “The Devil’s Arithmetic”, had already done their research into the following posted sources:

and were noting that it would help them make the time travel transition into Jane Yolen’s brilliant story (they know this will happen from my book talk) much more meaningful.   “I can really visualize things now,” commented K., which was exactly what I was hoping would take place.
It is a bleak and rainy weekend, perfect for diving into great books – perhaps it’s just a teacher’s wishful thinking, but I close my eyes and imagine my kiddos, still in their pajamas,  curled up in various comfy corners of their homes, reading their book club books and doing some time travelling of their own.

17 thoughts on “Slice of Life March Challenge: Saturday, March 29th., 2014 – Going Digital with Book Clubs

  1. This is fantastic. I love how you have links for them to discover. My students would love this. I have my student write prior to book club but not on the blog. What was I thinking?? You are so smart!

  2. Amazing teaching and learning happening here! Good for you listening to your other self! Be true to your kids and they will do what they need to on the test because they know how to think.

  3. “but my other self, my real teaching self, says, “NO! This is more important – this is what they will remember!” So, I listen to that second self.” That’s the self you should listen to! I really like that your book clubs are digital! I think I am going to try this next year. Your kids are going to love and remember these book clubs for years. I am getting read to read your other post on book clubs.

  4. I applaud you taking up Scarlet’s thinking, too, always have pushed through what I think is right, & know from how you write, you do too. And I love that final paragraph-sweet imagination! Thanks for the ‘how-to’ of course. When you said go digital, I thought that all the books were on the devices too. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Have a good rest of the weekend!

  5. My 4th graders are reading HF picture books now and reading NF to help them understand. Often the picture book has a NOTES page to give them the history background so that has helped them. As I learned from TC, they are trying to make story timelines and history timelines in their notebooks and writing reflections after discussing it with their partner. But YOU have shown me a format to follow once we move to HF novels. Thank you! Your students are lucky to have you for a teacher. Keep being like Scarlett!

  6. Thanks for linking up for DigiLit Sunday. So many wonderful resources here. Your students get a richer experience with the work you do. Much better to listen to teacher #2. I feel the same way about test prep, maybe tomorrow.

  7. Hooray for Scarlett!

    I LOVELOVELOVE this idea! Snagging it for next year!

    Where do these blogs live? Kidblog?

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