Recommended Books for Lit Circles/Book Clubs in the Middle School Classroom
As a teacher, I am always working to grow professionally to give my students the best possible instruction in the classroom, but one practice that has been a common theme throughout all twelve of my years teaching is literature circles or in-class book clubs. Although the way I implement them have DRASTICALLY changed over the years, the idea of CHOICE of text, COLLABORATIVE discussion about the text, and COLLECTING thoughts about a text have been consistent.
Over the years I moved from calling what we did in class lit circles to in-class book clubs because I no longer assign students jobs and the students in general have more freedom. Here is how our in-class book clubs go now:
- I book talk the options for book choices and have students list their top 3 on an index card with their name.
- I have this process be completely silent because I really want students to pick the book they want to read not what their friend wants to read.
- I then take the index cards and group them into groups of three to five depending on what books were chosen.
- The next day, I have the students sit in their book clubs, and I give them the task of determining their reading schedule.
- I give them the time period and ask the to come up with a schedule of pages to read by each book club meeting. Most groups then come up with a daily reading goal too, but they don’t have to.
- I then give reading time every day, but we also do other class activities every day except on book club day on Mondays (I like to give the weekend before our meetings).
- One thing I didn’t like about lit circles in my classroom was the unevenness of “jobs” during lit circles and how only one student was responsible for the ongoing conversation during meetings. So because of this my students have one simple task while reading: Come up with 5 open ended discussion questions or topics that they want to talk about during the meeting.
- I also like to make a student-created word wall, so I ask them to write down any words that they find that they don’t know and figure out what they mean. They then share those in their group also and discuss them then put them on our word wall.
- Some groups have a harder time chatting during group meetings, so I also have generic questions that will work with any book.
- I also read along with them, so I can help with some chatting as well.
- At the end of the unit, I will have them answer a few standards-based text-dependent questions about their specific book.
- I share the standards ahead of time, and they are what we are working on and focusing on during class when we’re not doing book clubs.
Today, I want to share with you seven titles that have also been consistently successful for my students and eight new titles I added over the last couple of years that were hits. I highly recommend any of these for middle school lit circles or in-class book clubs (or classroom libraries!):
Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings
Flight #116 is Down by Caroline B. Cooney
Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Kimchi and Calamari by Rose Kent
Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher
Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
Dark Life by Kat Falls
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Trino’s Choice by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
Do you do lit circles or in-class book clubs in your classroom?
What do they look like for you and your students?
What books do you recommend?