Friday, 17 July 2015

Analysis of a Book Club: What Went Wrong

At the beginning of last term I was full of enthusiasm for my new Ninja Readers and Storytellers Club.  With Esther supervising the library at lunchtime it meant I could hold my book club over a longer period of time, and I could combine my book and comic clubs (my great reasons for that are here).  I had to recruit younger students (Year 4's) but I didn't see a problem with that, and I found a room we could use so we didn't disturb the students using the library.

It didn't take long however, before I realised that things weren't going according to plan.  Despite the fact that the students themselves enjoyed the club it didn't meet my expectations and here's why:

  • Combining the two clubs led to the book portion of the club being rushed.  I was acutely aware when we were discussing books that we had a number of other storytelling things to do after that and I found it hard to stay in the moment.
  • Holding the club outside the library changed the vibe in a way that I hadn't expected.  There's something about discussing books while being surrounded by them that is very special.
  • There is a BIG difference between Year 4 and Year 6 students.  Both groups are lovely to work with but I prefer the more challenging books that the Year 6's read and their more mature reflections about them.
  • I had planned to set interesting storytelling tasks and have the students work on them at home and then share them with each other.  This did not work as most of the Year 4 students didn't seem self-motivated enough to do independent activities at home.

No books in sight but great storytelling fun!

Where to from here?

In Term 3 I'll be moving back to holding my book club at morning tea, in the library.  It is for Year 6's and I have about twenty signed up.

In addition to a book club I also want to have a promotional group whose job it is to help me promote books and the library to other students, staff and the community.  I have learned my lesson about combining activities so this will take place on a different morning tea time!

I've been reading a lot about the importance of giving students a voice and allowing them to collaborate and make decisions together.  I want to incorporate that more into my clubs and for that reason I will be encouraging the students to set their own goals for both the book and promo clubs.  They will pick the names and decide how the clubs will run and what they will focus on.  I have a LOT of ideas about things we could do, for example I'm very keen to Skype with another book club.  Hopefully I can share these ideas but leave the final word up to the students (who will love my ideas and do them anyway!).

I don't regret trying something new with the book club.  I had thought it through and it was worth seeing what would happen.  The students involved were very enthusiastic; it was only my grand vision that didn't pan out.  At the end of the day I would rather try lots of new things and have some work and some not, than keep doing things the way they have always been done and risk missing opportunities.

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