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Curriculum companies make huge amounts of money selling their basal readers, which some refer to as "one size fits all" curricula. Save your money and use real tradebooks to meet the needs and desires of all your students.
Harvey Daniels' book Literature Circles Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups puts forth a great program for teaching reading in the elementary classroom that I have personally used for the past three years.
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Fundamentals for a Succesful Program
This reading program establishes a three-part reading block:
- The children meet in their book groups to discuss
- After choosing pages as a group. they read quietly
- Each student responds in their journals.
To make this successful, in the opening weeks of school, I model various journal responses, discuss how to use sticky notes, and prepare them with the logistics of being in reading groups. The payoff is that more children are excited about the freedom of choice and the interaction they have with other students in the reading block. They think more critically about the book they are reading as evidenced through their journals and observed discussions, and a more intrinsic desire to read is instilled.
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Building a Reading Library
I collected various small sets of literature from the Scholastic specials, and I constantly add to my collection of books to offer the kids. It may take time to build a reading group library, but it can be inexpensive if you use classroom points to buy the literature.
The literature I acquire is of varying levels and genres, which is different then with a basal reader that has all children in the class reading the same story, regardless of its difficulty level or the interest level it holds for a given child.
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Do Book Groups Really Work?
Harvey Daniels offers a great program in his book (referenced above) that has been thoroughly researched. In the back he has a list of questions and answers that should address any concerns teachers may have.
Aside from the research, it seems common sense. Adults love book groups. We love to choose our own books, explore books from preferred genres, discuss books with people who have read the same material, analyze books at a personal level, and read books by authors we love. So, why not give children the same reading opportunities we have as adults?
As teachers, we always speak of building a love of reading in our students. I strongly believe that unless we offer choice and freedom in the classroom, we are not going to inspire this love. In fact, we may inspire just the opposite.
Using Book Clubs (Literature Circles) in Your Classroom
Utilizing book groups, sometimes referred to as literature circles, is a great way to teach reading in the elementary schools. It also helps develop an ongoing love of reading to older elementary students in the fourth and fifth grades.