Literally Speaking

Fall 2018

Book Clubs

Many teachers are beginning to put their students into book clubs for the first time and it can be a daunting task.

Below are some ideas to help you with logistics as well as tips for keeping the book clubs running smoothly:

  • Allow students to have choice, but make sure you are offering them books at the appropriate level. For example, you might have 6 clubs and each club gets to choose from 3 different books that you chose specifically for them. So, group your students by reading level and choose books accordingly.
  • Have book clubs complete a calendar with their reading goals. Tell them the date they need to have the book completed, then they can work together to create daily or weekly goals. This way, everyone has read to the same point when they have their meetings.
  • Meetings should occur twice a week
  • Topics discussed at the meeting should reflect the mini lessons from the unit
  • Students mark places in the text that they want to share with their club. These might be places that evoke strong feelings, that are especially important to the plot or characters, that seem to have hidden meaning, or that have some other kind of great significance
  • Clubs should come up with a set of expectations for members. There should be parameters in place for students who do not meet the reading goal. You should help groups understand how to establish these expectations but students need to feel ownership over their clubs
  • Create a scoring rubric that you share with students so they understand how they will be held accountable. This rubric could include student preparedness and student participation as well as list the topics of the mini lessons so you can track whether or not they are discussing these topics in their discussion. You could also require that students come to the meeting with a certain number of talking points and/or questions to present their group

Reading Conference Questions

These questions have been taken from several sources including books by Jennifer Serravallo, Kylene Beers, Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, and Pernille Ripp.


  • How is your reading going?

  • How is your reading at home going?

  • What’s standing in the way of your reading time?

  • What character reminds you of yourself or someone you know?

  • What part of the story is the most similar/different to your own life?

  • How does this story / character / conflict / event make you think differently about life?

  • Tell me about a reading strategy you used today? In today’s minilesson we… Have you tried that strategy?

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how complex is this book for you?

  • What do you do when the reading gets difficult? Have you tried the strategy...

  • How are you doing with finding meaning for words you are not familiar with?

  • Has your confidence as a reader grown?

  • What do you think is the one thing we’ve done in class that’s helped you improve so much as a reader?

  • How will the habits you’ve created in class help you in the reading you’ll have to do in the future?

  • Do you think you’ve grown as a reader the past few weeks?

  • Describe the characteristics you have that make you a good reader.

  • Let’s take a look at your reader’s responses. I like how you… Next time you might want to...

  • Have you looked up the author yet? Tell me about him/her.

  • Do you have any questions for me? What problems have you encountered that I can help you with?

  • Have you come across any of the signposts?

To see more specific conferencing questions, access this document:

Conferences and Small Group Instruction

Tips for Conferences and Small Group Instruction

    • Conferences are conversations with students about their work and are not planned

    • Teachers research what students are thinking/doing (ask for them to show post its or notebook entries)

    • You can compliment something good they have done, and then see what you can teach into

    • Utilizing the bands of text complexity is useful as it already has some skills necessary to move students along the progression. See pages 6-8 for some teaching points

    • Conferences are 5 minutes or so, so research, compliment, and provide a tip on post it and off they go

    • Next conference you can check in to see how they are doing and if they are doing this work

    • Small Groups are planned

      • Teachers can utilize levels to group students or group according to their needs (use iReady and/or Linkit, along with classroom observation/assessment)

      • Very similar structure to a conference: Compliment group, provide their teaching point, include your demo with read aloud, and then let them work while you coach in. This may be 10 minutes or so

    • For both conferences and small groups, it might be helpful to organize your tips and teaching points according to your unit/bend/genre