Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Digital Book Clubs: Cross-Country Literature Discussions

My journey with Digital Book Clubs all started because I responded to an EdTechTeam Community post on Google Plus. Deanna Hussey, fourth grade teacher from Esquire Elementary School posted, “Are there any 4th grade teachers who'd be interested in doing global/cross country book clubs? I need some new way to motivate my students to read and have some accountability. I'm in Washington State and have a class of 23.” The thought of starting Digital Book Clubs at my small school in Wisconsin intrigued me, so I quickly emailed to talk more to Deanna about this unique idea. This started our journey of creating an experience students would never forget.

Reading Groups Created by Reading Level
To create Digital Book Clubs successfully was a lot of behind the scenes work. The first thing we did was approve this idea by our principals. Once we got the okay to move forward, we split up our students based on reading level. We created six groups with about 3-5 students in each group. We then developed a Google Sheet with students names, student emails, and reading level for each group. This organization helped when sharing documents and working throughout the school year.

‘Get To Know You’ Day
Before introducing the idea to our students we provided them with a Get To Know You Day. Deanna and I started a Google Hangout that connected my class to hers and we had students ask any question they wanted. Some inquired about the geographic differences between our hometowns, football teams, school size, or even favorite ice cream flavors! The conversations were important in creating a open and safe climate between our two classes. When we were done with the Hangout, we gave each student a “buddy” to learn more about that was in their group. The students shared and answered questions to learn more about this student. The students had a BLAST with this Get To Know You Day and we were all excited for what more was to come. That day I sent home a Digital Book Club information sheet to parents and they were thrilled with their child being able to participate in this experience.

Pick Great Books!
Each group at a different reading level received their own book to read. When we picked out books for each group, we had to think about student interest and books that we knew students would love to read. Then, we created a planner for each book sectioning off each part of the book. This planner would help keep Deanna and I organized and be handed out to the students in each group to let the kids know what section of the book we would like to read and by what day.

One-to-One Check ins
Throughout each week I met with each student independently and check that they are reading the selection of text required. These meetings usually last about two or three minutes. The check in times are a way for me to prepare students for our discussion and check for appropriate comprehension. While students read, they are asked to come up with at least three flags (post-its) filled with questions, comments, ideas, things they noticed, etc. These flags are vital for our conversation during the Google Hangouts.

Discussion Day
Deanna and I normally only have one or two groups discuss on each day. Students and their teacher gather around a computer with their books and flags. Then, we have used Google Hangouts to facilitate a connection across the country and discuss the text. They use their 10-12 minute block of time to discuss anything they would like in the text. My students have a list of conversational moves above my reading table that they can use to foster discussion. For the majority of the time, the teachers are quiet facilitators of the discussion, however, at times there are necessary prompting to help focus our discussion. At the end of our discussion, we go over the text for next time. Students have absolutely LOVED this experience. I have groups that are so excited about talking with the group that they are meeting before every Discussion Day just to prepare what they would like to say to our reading buddies in Washington!

Write About the Text
Directly after our discussion, students are asked to answer a writing prompt about the text. This writing prompt is on a shared Google Document and sent to all students. We set it up this way because we want students to continue collaborating and discussing electronically. Students are allowed to use the comment feature to respond to others’ response to the question. Here is an example of the way we set up these written responses.

These Digital Book Clubs have been an amazing experience for my students. Becoming connected with a school across the country has inspired each student to read, talk, collaborate, discuss and write about what they’ve read like they have never before.

Reach out to me if you would like more information about our Digital Book Clubs!

Christine Perkins
Purdy Elementary School
Fort Atkinson, WI
Mrs. Perkin's Classroom Website

Want to set up your own cross-country literature discussion or connect with other educators across the globe? Join Christine and others on the EdTechTeam Global Community!

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