Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: Join the Club

I could not have finished reading Katie Doherty Czerwinski's Join the Club: Bringing Book Clubs into Middle School Classrooms at a better time.

I had just received the very initial data report from last year's state tests and started to reflect on the little information that I had.  Just a few hours earlier (hooray for kid naptimes!), I had dutifully created a table organizing my observations and the questions those observations raised: wonderings I could control, and wonderings I couldn't control but was concerned about.

Here's the first row of my obsessive little chart:

Feedback. Huge.  This is something I knew based on last summer's buddy read, Visible Learning. (I have an amazing nerd friend! It's a fantastic, transformative book but a little... ahem... "full." Check out what the complete title is.)

My biggest take-away from that read was that feedback from teacher to students is critical, but even more critical is feedback from students to teacher.  A workshop with Cris Tovani, as well as her book So What Do They Really Know?, showed me what this student-to-teacher feedback could look like, but last year, I struggled to figure out how to effectively build in that time on a regular basis, additionally challenged by the fact that I was out for 12 weeks of maternity leave with my sweet second child.

Back to Join the Club.  Not only do I love Czerwinski's conversational, honest voice, but I also appreciate her detailed look into how book clubs function in her middle school classroom.  This is the second year I'll be teaching in a block, and I've struggled to balance reading and writing workshops.  Czerwinski gives me a better idea of how to do that, and then she dives in to the work her students do in her book clubs.

That's where I'm starting to see how I can increase my feedback loops with students.  Czerwinski describes ways to help students become skilled at thinking deeply together about short texts and books, both in whole group and book club settings. If I can coach my students to have richer, more challenging discussions, I will have the ability to step outside the conversations a bit and do more thoughtful observations (rather than just behavior management management) from which I can gather pieces for feedback and ideas for minilessons. Czerwinski's thinking sheets and ideas for assessment will also inform the feedback conversations (meaning the sheets invite students to give me feedback about their needs, as well -- effective feedback is not a one-way process) I need to have with all of my readers, most especially the readers who try to slink into the shadows of the middle school classroom.

I am excited to continue to refer to (and share) this thoughtful, quick, well-organized read as I continue to reflect on last year's data and this year's plans!  Join the Club is a refreshing book about maintaining and blossoming from choice in the Common Core era

1 comment:

  1. Moving this book up a few notches in my TBR stack! Great review!!