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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Tales of a 5th/6th Grade Book Club: As Brave as You-- Week 1

I had such a great time leading the 5th grade book discussion of Echo last year that I eagerly volunteered to be a leader for 5th and 6th grade this year.

While last year’s discussions are archived here, this year you can click on the tag “5th/6th gr book club" anytime to pull up all of the reports. A few quick housekeeping notes about this book discussion-- we meet during lunch every Tuesday, there are 11 kids from all reading levels, they don’t all know each other, and we are one of 3 separate groups discussing this book.

We will be meeting every Tuesday and I should be there all but 1 week, so expect a report every Wednesday about what happened. The goal of these reports is similar to what I do with my other book discussion books reports; I want to offer you an example of how a book is discussed to help you lead your own.

After the kids ate their lunches, we handed them their copies [to keep! Thanks PTC] of As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds. I had one of the kids read the plot summary flap and then I read Reynolds biography to the kids.

Then I explained how that’s the book, but a book discussion is only half about the book. The other half is the discussion and that requires they share a part of themselves, so we did an introduction exercise. How can we all discuss together if we don’t know a little about each other. I told everyone to tell us their name, why they signed up for book club [even if it was just because their mom made them], their favorite type of book to read, and an interesting fact about themselves.  Myself and the three leaders went first.

The reasons why the kids joined were memorable. A few of the 6th graders joined because they had done it before and liked it, and this was their final chance. As the mother of one of those 6th graders, that was a little sad. One girl said she wasn’t reading as much as she did before and joined so she could get back into reading again. [Yay her] And, yes, one person joined because her mom made her.

All of the quick but thoughtful comments got our discussion juices flowing and we dove right in. I re-read the summary asking the kids to listen and look at the cover while I talked. Then I asked them to use what they heard, what they saw on the cover, and what they know about other books like this to make some predictions.

Almost every single kid talked. I made sure I was giving priority to those who hadn’t shared yet, so a few of the more timid ones definitely felt like they could have a chance too. Thankfully I know the kids who have the personalities that may dominate [like my kid and his friends] and I was on guard to stop them if necessary.

Most of the predictions centered around the fact that the Grandpop has a secret. What is that secret? Another popular prediction was that something tragic was going to happen, but what that is no one could agree on.

The kids were also given a reading schedule and some important reading directions. I also passed it on to the parents and below is an excerpt from that email:
As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds
1/31-- Books Handed Out2/7-- We will discuss chapters 1-4. Read pages 1-832/14-- We will discuss chapters 5-7. Read pages 84-1462/21-- We will discuss chapters 8-11. Read pages 147-2112/28-- We will discuss chapters 12-14. Read pages 212-2693/7-- We will discuss chapters 15-17. Read pages 269-349.3/14-- We will discuss chapters 18-21. Read pages 350-410 (The End)
Please remember that we are asking that NO ONE reads ahead. Even the leaders will not read ahead. One of the weekly activities we will be doing is speculating on what we think will come next. We even did it a bit today based on the summary alone. If someone reads ahead this could ruin the discussion for everyone. Predicting what you think will come next is a building block toward teaching our students how to become more critical readers. We all appreciate your assistance in keeping to this request. We discussed it with the children too.
We will end each book club with those predictions. The kids know that up front and will be ready for it. When leading a kids’ book club it is important that they know what to expect. If you empower them to be prepared to share one thing, they will be more willing to share in general.

In that same vein, I reminded the kids that this was their book club. We will always start wherever they want us to start-- what they were most excited to talk about, what part they loved the most, what part the hated, what characters they needed to talk about, etc... They get to drive the discussion. We will keep them on track, but they are the fuel here. I also told them that if they had questions about why something happened that they should ask the group. It is not only the adults who can ask the questions.

To prove I wasn’t just saying that to be nice, I reminded them that the narrator is 11. All of the kids are 10, 11, or 12, so I mentioned how this is a book from a point of view which they will understand better than us adults. I told them that we will need some things explained to us.

And so it begins. As you saw above, we will be discussing the first 4 chapters next Tuesday.

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