How to Run Book Clubs In Classrooms: Especially in Middle And High School

So many teachers have questions on how-to run book clubs in classroom especially in the middle and high school level. I was asked this question in a Facebook group and I felt that the answer would be a perfect blog.

Book clubs are one of the best ways to engage students with novels, creating a more interactive and better reading experience.

 My preference is book clubs over whole class novels. I probably do one whole class novel for the year and will do two to three book clubs during a school year.

Choice is at the center of creating lifelong readers and too many whole class novels limits that in the classroom. So let’s get into the nitty-gritty of running a book club in a middle school or high school English class.

Steps to Run a Book Club In The Classroom

Read the books that they are offering as selections:

Let me preface with saying that teachers SHOULD read the books that they are offering as selections. That is the number one tip in managing a book club is knowing the book selections, so that you can know if they are reading or not but also so that you can join in their book club meetings.

Join in the book club:

Not joining it as a teacher but as a reader. Students are having the discussion and I may add to the discussion or I try to push the discussion but for me, book club meetings are for my student readers’ perspective.

Now if I noticed that there’s a student that isn’t on pace then that’s a side conversation, I will have with that student and let them know, “hey that’s maybe the movie version not the book-version you were sharing!”


How-to Run Book Clubs In Middle And High School

Book tasting: How-to Run Book Clubs In classrooms

As I said before, choice is what makes book clubs preferable over whole class books. I’ll give my students 5 to 6 selections to choose from. If I don’t have the physical copies, which most times I do, I send my students off to www.goodreads.com.

Goodreads is a perfect platform to have students look up the books, scan through reviews, read the blurb, and rank their choices from there. 

Since we’re on the subject of Goodreads, I suggest having students create a Goodreads account. One activity that students complete is to review the books they’ve read on Goodreads after they are finished.  This allow them to engage in practices that readers do like to share their thoughts and commentary. I want my students to see themselves as readers and Goodreads creates that opportunity.

Ranking: How-to Run Book Clubs In classrooms

Next, after students go through the books and rank them 1-5, I let them know they may or may not get their first choice but I do at least try to give them their next best ranking. There’s some books that tend to be more popular and teachers of Jason Reynolds’ books know what I mean.

Support and guidance: How-to Run Book Clubs In Middle And High School

The first time you do book clubs in your classroom, there will need to be more teacher support and guidance. This means that you set up the expectations and a set of norms such as being prepared, allow people to have a voice, own your viewpoints, and accept other viewpoints.

Schedule: How-to Run Book Clubs In Middle And High School

You can also get student involved with setting up those norms. By asking them what will need to happen in order to have successful group discussions. Students may also need guidance in creating a reading schedule which includes what pages need to be read by when. Typically, book clubs should run for about four weeks. Any more than that and engagement drops off.

Getting Acquainted: How-to Run Book Clubs In Middle And High School

Now that groups are formed, norms and a reading schedule have been formed. It may be helpful to have the first meeting be a meeting that allows the students to get to know one another. This may only be necessary if it is early in the year or students that are quieter and may need some icebreakers to build community or you have students that need to learn to work collaboratively- which most students do. 

How-to run Subsequent Book Club Meetings In Middle And High School

  • guided general question that isn’t specific to a book but to a skill or the overarching theme of the clubs
  • guided question that is specific to each book.
  • activity that students work together to answer or create. Hexagonal thinking is ripe for moments like this. I blogged about this activity during our Romeo and Juliet book club that we did with hexagonal thinking.

Final Thoughts

Speaking of book clubs that have been AHHHmazing! One book club that is a hit and produces loads of student engagement and learning is centered on the hero’s journey.

I highly suggest this book club unit to not only bring diverse texts in your classroom but to also increase the rigor by having students demonstrate the principles of the hero’s journey in different books. You can find this resource in my TPT store.

Writing assessments can be done to wrap up clubs or a Socratic seminar or even a gallery walk of information created by each group.

Once you try a book club, you will realize how much more buy-in you get from students. Also, more interesting to see concepts come alive from the point of view of different books.

It only takes some extra planning in the beginning but the fruits of your labor will pay off in the end. 

Are you currently having a book club in your classroom? Or is it something you are looking to start. Let me know in the comment section.

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