How To Start A Book Club This Fall

Have you been thinking about how to start a book club? Book clubs are an excellent way to have meaningful conversations with friends. No matter your age, you can start a club with fellow readers, and the fall is a perfect time to start! Whether you will be the club’s facilitator, or just the ringleader for friends, here are some tidbits I’ve learned while participating in and facilitating book groups.

How to Start a Book Club:

1. Keep the group small. Six to eight is plenty and allows everyone the chance to speak and be heard.

2. Agree on a structure for each meeting. In the clubs I facilitate, I email a list of questions ahead of time. The questions give our conversation structure and make it so readers who like time to reflect have the time they need. We start with a general book review from each reader, and then discuss the questions. In many of my groups, each reader brings one extra fun question. To wrap up our meetings, we each give the book a star rating (from 1-5), and choose our next book.

3. Use discussion guides as a resource. Most books have discussion guides online that will provide a starting place for your questions. If you’re looking for discussion guides for From Sadie’s Sketchbook, those are here.

4. Use the Scholastic Book Wizard. If you’re looking for a book that will fit a certain level of reader, or just want more information on a book, you might find this tool particularly helpful. The Scholastic Book Wizard helps identify reading level and interest level for most books. A couple other tools I love are Commonsense Media, the Our Story app from We Need Diverse Books, and the What Should I Read Next? podcast. 

5. Ask for book recommendations in advance. I like to ask for recommendations from group members by email, but you could also have a jar for readers to drop ideas into. It’s nice to have looked into the books a bit before putting them up for a group vote. The other option is to have members “pitch” a book to the club, explaining why they think it’s a good match for the group.

6. Tap into authors as resources. Most authors are happy to answer questions from the group via email or even by Skype. It never hurts to ask!

7. Keep things fresh and varied. It’s easy for a group to fall into a genre pattern or for meetings to start to become stale. Mix it up by asking the group to set the questions one time, choosing a very different kind of book, or gathering suggestions for fresh approaches from the group.

Book Recommendations?

What books have made for excellent discussion for your book clubs? Tag me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let me know the titles and why you loved them as book club picks.

Study a Process to Become a Streamlining Superstar

Study a Process to Become a Streamlining Superstar

There aren’t many things in your life that you only do once. However, most of us don’t take the time to consider how we might streamline routine activities. For instance, how often do you:

  1. Sort the mail
  2. Do the laundry
  3. Go grocery shopping
  4. Pay bills
  5. Pack your bag for the next day’s activities

These activities are only the tip of the iceberg. Research shows that on average people spend one hour a day looking for stuff. Those little frustrations add up, and make the difference between a settled or scattered day.

We know there’s a better way, but we feel so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the little issues to solve, that we decide to ignore them. Or, we shrug our shoulders and figure this is just the way things are. We have no vision for how our days might go differently.

Now, imagine that you worked for Disneyland, and you were assigned to do a routine activity, such as help people board a ride, serve people lunch, or remove litter from the sidewalk. Would you do your job differently each time? Absolutely not. Not only would you have a system, you and your supervisor would have given thought to how you could not only make the task efficient and manageable, but you’d consider how you could add a little “magic.”

What if you used this approach in your daily life? What if you asked yourself: “How could I not only sort the mail more efficiently, but with a little magic?”

Try this:

  1. Choose one routine task you’d like to revise. Give yourself permission to choose one, even though you’re sure to have a number of options. Start with one, and use your success to move on to the next.
  2. Seek out an inspiring process to study. Many times, unusual connections can yield helpful results here. Rather than trying to find someone else who has the perfect mail-sorting routine, you might find inspiration in the way a Kindergarten teacher helps students organize take-home papers, or in the way a librarian sorts returned books.
  3. Identify the key steps of the process. If you’re a visual thinker, consider drawing a diagram.
  4. Consider why the process works. How might you apply the success of the process to your own task?
  5. Sketch or write up a template for your new process. Experiment and stay open to revision as you try out the new approach. Aim high. Don’t stop until you achieve inspiring results.
  6. Build on your success by working on a new task.

Writerly Play offers a framework for creative thinking. In each mental room, we tackle different thinking tasks. This activity is a tool for your Library, where we analyze resources, identify strategies for specific solutions and play with them until we make them our own.

Share Writing with Flair

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Give your students opportunities to share their writing with flair. Sharing opportunities throughout our sessions and especially at the end keep motivation high. A huge motivating factor for revision is the desire to connect more effectively with our readers.

Explore more ideas and possibilities for sharing in Writerly Play: Transform Your Teaching with Game-Based Strategies and Tools.

Manage your Classroom for Play

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Sometimes having fun in class is as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. How do we strike the balance between making sure our students are having a blast, and maintaining a productive work environment? The key is filling up our educator tool-boxes so we’re prepared with classroom management when things begin to spin out of control.

Learn more about classroom management for Writerly Play in Writerly Play: Transform Your Teaching with Game-Based Strategies and Tools.

Host Writerly Conversations

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Play opens up new possibilities in our storytelling. But how do we make the leap from play to paper? Two important kinds of writerly conversation bridge between play and writing. First, we host modeling conversations with the full class, in which we as facilitators think aloud as we connect the dots. Also, we individualize the learning through personalized conversations with our students writer-to-writer. These conferring sessions help students apply the general concepts from the day to their unique projects.

Explore strategies for conferring in Writerly Play: Transform Your Teaching with Game-Based Strategies and Tools.