Thursday, January 29, 2015

Surprise - 8th Graders Facilitate the Book Club!

I love surprises and over the years I have encountered  both positive and negative surprises.  But as the saying goes, we don’t learn unless we make mistakes.  Our new approach to host the 8th grade book club has been a welcome endeavor.  In the past our 8th grade reading participation has declined in comparison to our eager 6th and 7th graders.  That being the problem we embraced strategies to come up with a solution.  For those in middle school know that 6th and 7th graders are always eager to participate but as students prepare for high school they start to find less and less time to read for pleasure.  I spent 16 years as a high school librarian and I know first hand the problem continues.  The strategy is simple - we handed the book club over to our 8th graders.

It began with 3 students volunteering to host the discussion group on The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau.  A Google document was started and shared with the group and myself. Suggested discussion questions, book trailers, and activities were shared.  We met as a small lunch group to finalize our plans before the actual book club meeting.  The students produced fliers, made announcements during 8th grade lunch, wrote commercials for the student news, and enticed friends to read the book and participate.  Their marketing techniques worked wonderfully because the book club had over 25 eager participants with many others  wanting to join in on the fun.

The group decide to begin the discussion with a quick Plickers activity with five rather easy questions.  This gave the club some focus, settle down to eat, and introduced them to a new tool that could be modeled in the classrooms.  I believe if the students are comfortable with a tool that may ease the teacher’s anxiety of introducing a tool.  I actually pulled up the account and let the students drive the questions and answers.  

Our principal was so impressed with the success and participation he asked for feedback from some of the participants  on what can be done  to continued this enthusiasm school-wide.  If you want to know something about your school, just ask the students.  They were very honest with their responses  and I was honored to hear one of their answers was that I had been the librarian since their 6th grade year and they knew me.  Did that student just say relationships matter? WOW!  

The concept sounds so simple but we need to realize sometimes it’s the simple things we do as librarians that make the most impact.  In the future I will continue to empower the students to take charge of more programming.  Next stop - virtual book club!

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