I gladly welcome today’s guest blogger, Ramona Behnke, a teacher for for 17 years who has been teaching 6th grade language arts/social studies at Islander Middle School for the past nine years. Ramona is passionate about passing on her love of books to the students she teaches. You can follow Ramona on Twitter or her blog.
It’s November and time for Mock Newbery book clubs in room 104! My classroom partners with the King County Library System (KCLS) for You Choose the Next Newbery @KCLS. The funds for our books are provided by a grant from our schools foundation. When we finish our cycle of book clubs, the books are available for the use of other teachers in our building.
I introduce the titles to my students and give them a few days to explore the books. Each student selects a two or three week book completion cycle (based on his or her reading rate during September and October) and then ranks the titles in order of preference. I’m honest with them that dividing the books between two classes and fifty-two students is a challenging process, but I assure them that they will get to read their first or second choice title at some point during the ten week book club cycle.
My students use a bookmark to capture their thinking while reading the books. I encourage them to keep an ample supply of sticky notes to mark places they will want to revisit later and record on the bookmark. The bookmark nudges students to pay attention to golden lines, new vocabulary, author’s style, and to sketch, ask questions, and make connections that will help them prepare for book discussions.
Parents, friends, paraprofessionals, librarians (school and KCLS), retired teachers, administrators, other teachers, school secretaries, and even members of my own family lead our book groups. I rotate among groups, listen to discussions, and take photos. At the conclusion of each book club, students complete a book club reflections form.
On completing the book club cycle, each student votes for his or her favorite book. This step allows students to honor their personal favorite, and then set that aside as we continue a deeper analysis of the books using the Newbery criteria. Students set up an evaluation grid in their WRN (Writer’s Reader’s Notebook) for each book read. As we focus on one criterion at a time, students rate each book for that specific criterion and give a brief explanation of the rating. Once all criteria are completed, each student decides which title should win the Newbery Award and completes a written assignment defending this choice using the Newbery criteria as the lens to judge the book.
I incorporate a fishbowl discussion for each title based on the process used by KCLS librarians (see Feb. 25, 2013 blog post). We cast our online vote with KCLS and enjoy watching the live feed as the Newbery Award is announced at the ALA Mid-Winter Convention.
My passion for continuing Mock Newbery book clubs is fueled by student feedback:
“I had fun reading the books, then voting, and then watching the actual awards.”
“The best part of book clubs was hearing other people’s ideas and perspectives of the book and sharing. I really support Mock Newbery book clubs since they’re a great way to reflect on what you read.”
This past week a 7th grader stopped me in the hall with the query, “Have you started Mock Newbery book clubs yet? Can I get a copy of the list so I can read them too?”
Thank you Ramona for sharing such a creative way of engaging your students in the world of books.