While this is not really an EdTech lesson, I thought that I would share this lesson here nonetheless.
I have always been a firm believer in the power of Extensive Reading (ER). At our university we have an ER program integrated into our curriculum. More accurately, it is an SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) program, and one of the big questions is always:
“Are the students actually reading?”
While there are some great solutions out there, such as Moodle Reader, I have always shied away from quizzing students on their ‘pleasure reading’, as I did not want to taint the practice with the idea of assessment. Of course, there must be some accountability, but I have always tried to allow the students to demonstrate their progress in ways that involved sharing and creativity. This is why my central ‘assessment’ of our SSR program is Book Group Day. It is an activity that I often squeeze in between units in a textbook to give the students a change of pace.
Book Group Day is an activity which is completely student-centered, and facilitates the discussion and sharing of ER books.
The first step is to prepare the students to succeed in the lesson. During the class before the first Book Group Day, the students are given Book Group Day booklets to use to prepare to share their books with each other. These pages are duplex printed, and folded in half to create a four-page booklet. The first inside page is for the students own ER book, and in addition to the title and author includes three questions:
- What was this book about?
- What was your favorite part of the book?
- Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why? Why not?
The last two pages include four sections; one for each book shared by other group members. (I usually use groups of four, so there is one extra spot to allow for the odd five-person group.)
Once the students understand the booklet, and the expectations of their group discussions, they work in groups on the task of thinking of questions to ask about books. The students work together to create a list of questions, which are then shared with the class while the teacher types them into a text file projected on a large screen.
~ I had to sneak some EdTech in there. This was done on my iPad 2, using my Zagg bluetooth keyboard. ;^) The use of the large screen allows students to see which questions have already been shared, which helps to prevent duplication.
The list of questions was later parsed, categorized and printed as a booklet on B5 paper to be given to students on Book Group Day.
Book Group Day
On the day of the lesson the students were immediately put into groups and given their Book Group Day Questions booklets. The students were given a task time limit of 40 minutes, and the teacher posted a digital timer on the classroom screen to keep students on pace. They were given about ten minutes per book, but offered flexibility to account for differences in plot complexity and levels of interest. The students started each ’round’ by introducing their books to the group. Once the student had finished introducing the book, each of the other students were to take turns asking questions about the book. This is where the Book Group Day Questions booklet came in handy. The students were each expected to ask two questions about each book, and to take notes on both the questions they asked and the responses. Additionally, they were tasked with answering a question about whether they would like to read the book discussed.
While not all students remained focused and on task, the lesson generally goes well. The students demonstrate comprehension of the books which they read by summarizing them for their peers, they share opinions about their books, the plot, and the characters, and they learn about interesting books from others.
This is a great activity for taking the primarily receptive task of reading, and making it a four-skills activity.
- Reading: Students must read a book to complete the Book Group Day booklet.
- Writing: Students must write short summaries and ideas about the book.
- Speaking: Students must introduce their book to their group. (Special stress is put on the importance of eye-contact to keep students from simply reading their responses from their booklets.)
- Listening: Students ask questions about each book, so they must listen to prepare their questions.
What do you think? Is there room for Book Group Day in your course?