Can you effectively engage students in a book club if you are required to teach a specific class novel? Yes, Yes, Yes!!!! In fact, you might find that students get more out of the class novel when it’s presented in a book club format.
I’ve heard many times that “I would love to try book club, but my district requires me to teach whole class novels.” Well, let me reassure you that book clubs work great even with class novels. Remember that book clubs ate a strategy, a strategy that allows more people to talk, discuss, and share ideas than in a whole class discussion. Small groups, working together on the same novel, sharing ideas – it is so exciting that it makes this Language Arts teacher’s heart so happy!
You can use the same activities and assignments in whole-class novels as you do in individual student group novels. The purpose of the assignments is to help students think about the content in a new way. Think about ideas and make connections to new ideas. Question the text and challenge peer ideas. It is not the book that matters, it is the student’s thinking and problem-solving skills that grow and make the book club a strategy one I will continue to incorporate into my secondary ELA classes.
Don’t get me wrong, given the opportunity, I would much prefer to give students a choice in their reading materials. They are more likely to complete the reading and engage in higher-level conversations simply because their interest level is high, but I do understand the reality of districts requiring teachers to teach specific novels. If this is the case for you, I want to encourage you to try presenting your next class novel in a book club format. I know you will find yourself enjoying the unit more and your students will as well!