Imagine being able to encourage your student readers from home. Even better, imagine your student readers encouraging other student readers from home.
Setting up a book club through Google Classroom will allow you to cultivate a culture where reading is celebrated, talked about, and a social experience students will love participating in, all from the comfort of your computer.
How to set up an online book club:
1. Set clear expectations
Putting 100 plus students together in an online community to have conversations can be scary. However, with clear expectations and teacher participation, your Google Classroom Book Club can become a safe, comfortable space for all students to participate.
To keep the book club focused on reading and books, I kick off the early days of conversation by setting up clear expectations in class. Students are given a list of dos and don'ts, then I model appropriate book club talk.
2. Share fun challenges
To keep students actively involved in the book club, I post regular challenges that keep them interested. Two of my favorite challenges are "Book Shelfies" and "Book Snaps." Both activities take students' favorite social media platforms and turn them into something literary.
For Book Shelfies, I simply challenged students to take a selfie with their favorite book and post it in our Google Classroom Book Club with a brief explanation about what makes that book a favorite read.
For Book Snaps, students took a picture of a page of their book and marked it up using a photo editing app (iPhone's camera has a mark up feature) or Snapchat. I modeled this process with my own book snap of The Playbook by Kwame Alexander:
3. Post and respond regularly
Knowing when not to interrupt the flow of students posting and responding to each other and when to post yourself is a fine balance. When students are posting for book recommendations and receiving lots of responses and engagement, I make a point to not interrupt and make the conversation suddenly uncool. I want the kids to OWN their book club.
On the other hand, if I sense the conversation is dying down or see a student post with no responses, I will share some insight or tag another student who has read the same or a similar book or might have a good response. The key is to keep the conversations flowing and keep the kids posting. When kids are talking about books, they're building interest and motivation to read.
4. Share student responses in class
There is something about students seeing their name online that makes them feel famous. Several times a week when a student posts something really interesting or insightful about their reading, I share the post with the class. They love seeing their own posts, and they love seeing the responses build.
5. Balance work and play
Our Google Classroom book club is mostly fun. My primary goal for book club is to create a culture of reading among my students. A prime motivator, especially for secondary students, is social interaction. Having social-media like conversations about our books gives students that space.
In addition to our casual conversations, I do assign my students a once-a-week Letter About Literature that students submit through Google Classroom Book Club. Students are assigned to write a letter to me or to a classmate and reflect on their reading that week.
Having this weekly assignment in our book club simply does the job of reminding students our book club is there and pulling in any reluctant participants. The letter itself brings my middle grade students beyond the book summary and teaches them to reflect on the impact reading can have on a reader.
At a soccer game this past week. a mom approached me and said her son has been reading our book club posts every night. He's never posted outside of the assigned letter, but I love that he's viewing readers' conversations online.
Good luck and have fun setting up your own Google Classroom Book Club! I'd love to hear about it. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.
Check out my full Letters About Literature Independent Reading Program here.