Fifth-graders in Stephanie Gilmartin’s class at CV Starr set reading goals at the beginning of the school year. While one might expect goals like “Read the entire Harry Potter series” or “Read for twenty minutes every day,” Jaylin Morales chose something different: she decided to create a book club with her classmates. By the end of October, the club, which meets at recess, was up and running.
“Isn’t it every teacher’s dream to have a student initiate such a great idea?!” Gilmartin asked in a Twitter post about the book club.
Morales started the club by first choosing a book from a bin of books Gilmartin provided. She chose Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parrish, explaining that “it was the biggest book and the blurb looked interesting.” Plus, the book is part of a larger series the students can continue to read if everyone enjoys it.
During each meeting, students read the book together. They take turns, with Morales reading the majority of the passages and her classmates picking up when they feel like reading aloud. The students stop between every chapter or two for discussion.
“We talk about our predictions and our thoughts,” Morales explained. “We share what we think will happen and talk about how we could solve the problem in the story.”
During discussions, the students pass around a “talking stick,” another of Morales’s ideas. Sometimes discussions got overwhelming with everyone talking at once. Morales began using a marker that the student speaking would hold to indicate that it was their turn to talk while everyone else listened. Eventually, she decided to decorate a popsicle stick and call it the Talking Stick to make it a little bit fancier. So far, it has worked well and the meetings run smoothly with lots of laughter and thoughtful discussions about the story.
“The students were given no help other than me providing them with the books and the chart paper to take notes about their discussions,” Gilmartin said. “Other than that they are fully independent.”
While the book club is an independent project run by the students, it’s interesting to note the presence of many of the district’s Strategic Coherence Plan skills: collaboration and communication, critical thinking, and adaptability.