Novel study organization and planning can seem like a daunting task. How you plan your novel study can be the difference between high levels of engagement and just making it through the book, so it is an important piece of the process. Here are several ways that I've had success organizing novel studies and book clubs in my upper elementary classrooms.
Purposeful planning is the key to making the most out of book clubs or novel studies because they create a new level of meaning within your instruction. Here are a few ways you can plan your novel studies to get more mileage out of your reading time.
Novel Study Organizational Method #1: Student Choice
This is the most common way I've seen teachers add authenticity to their book clubs, and there are two ways to do it really effectively. You can group students first and have them vote on a book from the selections you provide that are an appropriate level. This upside is that it is easier for you to monitor each book club and ensure the partners are behaviorally a good match because you've selected the groups based on their reading level AND compatibility. The downside is that you need more copies of a specific book and some students will end up not getting their choice because the vote doesn't go in their favor.
Or use reading levels to help you organize book clubs…
Option two is to pull a group that is close in level and let each student individually choose from your selections. Their group is decided by which book they pick. The only downside is you occasionally end up with a student who has no group and you potentially have more groups. The upside is you (potentially) need less copies of a book, and every child has gotten to pick the book that best fits them.
Novel Study Organizational Method #2: Shared Theme
Provide your groups with books that all incorporate a shared theme. This allows you to have great conversations and allows for text-to-text comparisons. Common themes include: friendship, overcoming obstacles, perseverance, responsibility, and kindness/acceptance. Here are a few books I might use for differentiated book groups that all focus on the theme of friendship.
Novel Study Organizational Method #3: Focus on Genre
Having students all read the same genre (at their own level) is a great way to organize book groups and dig deeper on the characteristics of a genre at the same time. While most of the examples I have seen online focus on using mysteries, any genre can be turned into a genre-based book club. My personal favorite is biographies because I can get some social studies in at the same time. Here's an example of a selection of books I used when my group studied biographies and autobiographies.
Novel Study Organizational Method #4: Targeted Skill Focus
Does your data indicate your students are struggling with a specific reading skill, like inferring? Select books that require your students to practice this skill again and again (in coordination with other skills, of course). Plan a daily mini-lesson to give a new strategy for your students to use to attack their text. While this method of selecting texts can take more time, it can lead to big payoffs on those standards you know your kids are struggling with.
Novel Study Organizational Method BONUS: Shared Topic
Similar to theme and genre, a shared topic can give students something to connect across texts, and it can also provide you a guiding light for your lessons. Finding texts that take place during a specific historical event, for example, is a great lead in for social studies. You can also run non-fiction book clubs using topics, and create a shared knowledge base of facts that can be used to do a research project. Here's an example I helped a colleague pick out when she had a high group of boys who were really interested in wars and history.
Regardless of how I organized my book clubs, I always made sure to have a focus question or skill each day. I, personally, do this using trifolds because I find it makes it fast and easy to keep my student's work organized and to grade. However, I have also seen great things done with reading responses or having students document their thoughts with sticky notes.
Learn more about trifold novel studies by clicking a title below:
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I hope this article gave you some ideas for organizing your next novel study or classroom book club.
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