I recently attended a round-table discussion about student book clubs. The presenters had tried assigning discussion roles and found that students were actually much more engaged with their reading when they were freed from the constraints of individual assignments. They had their students use post-it notes to keep track of their thoughts as they read, then use those to lead discussions when the groups met. The presenters posed the question: would having done literature circle roles before freeing them from those roles help them to make better connections/ take better notes?
I was inspired by what they shared. Clearly, giving students the freedom to write their ideas without being tied to a particular strategy (making connections, finding words, clarifying meaning) as a more authentic way to have them read.
This week I tried - for the first time - inserting a step between my "Jobs 3.0" and independent student-led meetings. I told the students that before I would allow them to meet independently in the library (a goal we've set from the beginning of the year) I would first have them demonstrate their maturity as readers and discussers by eliminating the jobs and having them keep their thoughts on post-it notes.
We've only been trying it for a few days now, but it seems very effective. I have four book clubs, and only the two most advanced clubs are working this way. They have had to readjust to how they run their meetings (I left it up to them on how to decide who would be the leader each day). My hope is that once they are comfortable with this process they will have very high-level, mature discussions that feel very authentic and natural.