Are you trying to figure out how to make digital book clubs happen? Are you completely overwhelmed with the options and want to know what the best digital book club option is? Do you want digital book club tools? Do you want to know the best digital book clubs strategies?
I’ve been slowly taking my book clubs more and more digital for years. I started with completely live and in-person groups. Now, with years of practice and tweaking, along with the current worldwide pandemic, I have completely online book clubs. What’s more, they’re going rather well!
Whether you’re reading this during school closures or after and want to make your book clubs work asynchronously so your students can have virtual classroom discussions at any time of day, this is sure to give you some ideas. What’s more, I’ll get you started with online book clubs free! See below for the free resource!
Tools I Use:
- Google Suite for Education Apps:
These tools have always been free, and that’s why I use them. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for emergency distance learning, many companies that are normally paid services are temporarily offering free services. Now, I have nothing wrong with these companies and I applaud them for their charity. However, I would far rather learn a tool that I know has always been free and that I will be able to use once these companies go back to charging a fee.
Where to Find Reading Materials
- Physical Copies
If you are in school, there is always the option to provide physical copies. These are also many apps and websites, some connected right to your own school or public library, that can be used to find texts for your book clubs or digital guided reading groups. Many of these are “freemium” meaning they have some paid features but contain enough that’s free that they’re worth mentioning.
Thus far, I have used Sora which is connected to Overdrive that many schools and public libraries use to provide ebooks and audiobooks for students. Sora has the downside of limited copies of each book that may limit your selection.
I have also used Epic! which is currently free during school hours and has a wide variety of English and Spanish books. Epic! is great because the books on Epic! are available in unlimited quantities where you could conceivably assign every student in your class or classes the same book to read.
NewsELA and Readworks are great sources for news articles and other nonfiction articles. These too also would allow you unlimited copies by downloading PDF versions of the texts.
Planning the Digital Book Clubs
Planning your digital book clubs is much the same as your normal in-person book clubs. I make all of my lesson plans in Google Docs that still include all of the elements of a good lesson.
In addition to the lesson plans, I also create a student-friendly Google Slides presentation that allows them to see learning objectives, discussion questions and writing prompts. In this Google Slides presentation I link in where students will respond in writing and through discussion.
This can be adapted for even young learners thanks to the tools I am going to show you.
Now, the way that I distribute materials to students is through Google Classroom. It’s free and it always has been and does not appear to be changing any time soon. It integrates with the Google Suite of apps including Youtube and many other apps and websites.
I’ve used Showbie in the past as well, but that is now a paid product that has some great features with the premium version. For example, you can send videos and audio files of unlimited length.
For lower elementary, I might recommend Seesaw which has also always been free and has some excellent tools for lower elementary. Like Google Classroom and Showbie, it integrates with many other apps and web tools. It also offers greater simplicity for primary grade students.
Whichever app you use, things to remember:
- Clear instructions
- Assessment criteria or a rubric
- Keep it simple with as few possible materials to open as possible
- Exemplar work to reference
So I distribute the materials to my students through an app. I can even include video lessons and audio explanations. Then, all I have to do is record the video or the audio and attach it. This can be done with Google Drive, Flipgrid or Youtube.
Remember how I said to keep the number of files to send to a minimum? I try to put everything together on one Google Slides presentation.
What do I include?
- Purpose for Reading
- Discussion Questions – Link to Flipgrid
- Written Prompt – Link to Google Docs
Discussion Prompts on Flipgrid
In my Google Slides, I include a link to a Flipgrid. It is very intuitive, but you should take time to teach students how you want them to use it.
- Multiple questions possible
- Teacher can provide video explanations
- Customizable built-in feedback tool
- Students can respond to each other’s responses
- Integrates with many other apps
- Teacher can approve videos before they are posted
Written Questions on Google Docs
Again, right on the Google Slides for the book, I include links to written questions I want students to respond to on Google Docs. Students turn in these written responses on Google Classroom, Showbie or Seesaw.
The links are force copy links so that when students click on the link, it prompts them to make a copy rather than edit my original. I made that mistake the first time, and I have not forgotten.
To create a force copy in Google Docs
- Click Share
- Click Get Shareable Link
- Make sure your share settings are set to “Can View”
- Paste the link and delete “edit?usp=sharing” at the end
- Write “copy” at the the end of the link
Why Not a Live Digital Book Group?
A legitimate question! Maybe you’re a lower elementary school teacher, and you’re thinking that a Zoom or Google Hangout Meet with the students in your digital book club might be best. Perhaps you’re worried about not being able to control where the discussion goes if it’s not live. Also, you may be a traditionalist and want to hear what your students are saying to each other live.
Live Digital Book Clubs DON’T WORK.
Want to fight me about it? Here’s why: Not every kid can be on at the same time as everyone else. You know that one (or two or five) kid that you struggle to connect with and engage. Giving struggling students a set time that they need to be on a live call is setting them up to fail.
You can coach your struggling students with an asynchronous digital book club before they make their Flipgrid responses. Also, you can read with them on their time as needed. Making it asynchronous makes it feel normal for these students who would otherwise feel marginalized and disengaged by not being part of the book club when the other group members are available.
How would you like to be that kid who has to take care of your siblings or go to work with your parents and feel not part of your group because you couldn’t be there with everyone else? I wouldn’t be motivated to read my book and participate. The worst part: It’s not my fault that I can’t be there.
Try It Out FREE
I want to help you get digital book clubs going in your classroom! So I’m going to give you a FREE one of my Google Slides presentations that I share with my students. Sometimes I use these for read alouds, digital guided reading groups or digital book clubs.
I have resources like these for over 100 books that I use for digital book clubs in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. These can be used for Kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade.
First, though,I’m going to give you my resource for The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds and I am including the resource for the English version of the book as well as the Spanish version of the book El punto. This is great if you’re like me and teach in a dual immersion / dual language immersion classroom.
Sign up below!