Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Book Club

by AJ

This week most of my classes had a "book club". Theyd all chosen books to read a few weeks ago... and this week they presented them to the class.

I put them in 3-4 small groups and sat in the center of all the groups.. so I could listen in on them all. Each person then presented their book, talked about the story, and then gave their "review" of the book. Following that, other members of the group asked questions.

Ill be honest, I was shocked by how well this went. Previous attempts at "group work" have been disappointing at best. But the book club was fantastic.. in every single class!

So today Ive been contemplating why. Why was this so effective? Why were the discussions so lively and engaging? Why were the presentations so thorough?

In a nutshell: we tapped what Krashen calls "The Power of Reading". The students were interested because THEY chose the books. They chose stories that interested them and THEY determined the difficulty of the reading material. Some chose very simple and very short graded readers. Some reread short stories they had read in High School. Some chose very challenging and very long books (the new Harry Potter book, Fellowship of The Ring, Lolita).

Another important point: The presentation was relaxed and informal... much like a book club of native speakers. No one had to stand in front of the class. They put their chairs in circles and chatted with their friends about what they'd read.

Another factor: Grading. They were not graded on language ability. And they were not graded by me. Rather, group members assigned a numeric grade to each presenter.

I instructed them to consider only three factors: 1. They could hear the person, 2. The person spoke in English (bad, good, whatever.. doesnt matter), and 3. The person seemed knowledgeable about the book (ie. they read it). I advised them to give a full score to anyone who met these simple criteria.

And it worked fantastically well. When summarizing their books.. the students exceeded my expectations by telling very detailed stories. Their reviews were thoughtful and interesting. And the follow up discussions were likewise very interesting and thoughtful.

This experiences gives great weight to Krashen's suggestion regarding intermediate and above classes-- ie. that they should be literature based.

I agree.. I think a book/film club format would be an excellent structure for classes of this level. For a more detailed outline of how Id do it, see the post above.