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Nitty Gritty Book Club – Part II – The Fun Stuff

May 22, 2008
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Chers Amis,

I certainly HOPE I haven’t bored anyone with all the planning talk about book club!! It is meant to be an enriching activity, not a chore.  Don’t be intimidated.  There are no wrong answers and I only know what has worked for OUR group.  You all might be much more spontaneous and flexible than we are. It is also a TEAM effort. (Ladies of Book Club, PLEASE feel free to chime in, add to, correct or negate anything I have said!)

One issue that I didn’t touch on was how we handle different age levels and if we have more than one group. We currently have one group of girls from 8-12 and next year we will be starting a second ‘track’ for the 6-7 yolds – mostly boys.  We have not had any real problems with age-related content as the books were carefully chosen. Often families with younger children use the book as a read-aloud versus independent reading, so Mom can ‘edit’ certain scenes as necessary.  We have only found this to be necessary once or twice. For example, there is a scary scene in Where the Red Fern Grows when a bully falls on a knife.  The book itself is wonderful and we didn’t want to miss it because of one scence,so we skipped the details from that section a la Tivo and FF.   We will probably use the same book list with both groups in large part next year in the RA format or supplement with easier books on similar themes/topics.  If two big sisters are reading Robin Hood and working on activities from that era, little brother will want to too!  Plus it is easier on Mom.  I’ll keep you posted on that aspect since it is new to us!

Okay, we’ve picked our books, our order has arrived from Amazon, we know who is bringing what snack, who is hosting and leading which month, Whew! when does the FUN part begin? NOW! Enough planning, get reading!

Before the Meeting: Typically, the mom leading the book of the month will search for activities, lesson plans, links etc. that might be interesting to the other families and she will e-mail a collection of ideas to the group.  Others are encouraged to share their finds.  The leader may also assign a short writing project or craft in advance or ask the girls to bring materials for an activity, but nothing onerous.  The only requirement is that the girls read the book. Some months the book may spark related all sorts of rabbit trails  Other months, the girls may just read the book.Period.   That is fine too! Flexibility and Fun are the key words.

The Meeting
We budget about 1 1/2  – 2 hours for the meeting including snacks. After that we linger, play and visit. The other moms are welcome to join in the meeting, but are often in another room chatting and watching the little ones (running interference).  The book club meeting itself usually starts with the girls gathered together around a table for a short prayer.  The leader will start the discussion with an overview of the plot, characters, conflicts, setting etc.  We have been graced to have a FANTASTIC lady in our group who has her PhD in Teaching/Literature/Education and she has been instrumental in shaping the group and introducing literary elements.  We have discussed the various elements over the last year or so not in a didactic way, but to help them see deeper into the story, to better understand the author and recognize beautiful language. We’ve even played Literary Element BINGO!

Each month we try to do a quick, light review and then highlight a specific element that is well displayed in that book.  For example, the setting was crucial in A Single Shard, Point of View was important in From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and conflict, obvious in the Biography of Helen Keller.  This is NOT a dry discussion, but a good chance to mix a few new concepts in with a great story.  The leader is also free to design activities or crafts that would work with the book.  Leslie designed a GREAT series of activities for the Helen Keller bio where the girls were partnered, one blindfolded, and the sighted girl had to lead the other – without speaking – through a complicated obstacle course and have her partner do several tasks only with hand/finger signing. Who could do Treasure Island without a treasure hunt and a lesson on coordinates and map reading? Not us! A Wheel on the School lead to a ZOOM-like science activity where two teams competed to see who could balance more weight on a cardboard roof using rubber bands, straws, and paper clips. We don’t plan a big, showy activity  for every month, but it can be a nice way to spice it up.

The second half of the meeting is Show and Tell.  The girls present any work that they have done based on the book. These have included: hand drawn topographical maps, illustrated manuscripts, copywork, lapbooks, art projects, puppet making, short plays, sewing, family geneology, science experiments (guess who:-), cooking, sewing,  story writing, poetry, posters, vocabulary work, games etc.  One of our favorite months was a Country Fair based on Understood Betsy. Again, some months the creative juices run wild and at other times there just isn’t time.  No guilt.  No problem.  It is fun just to see what other people have done! After the meeting, it is snack time and play time for all.  Yet another great book club!

Here are the book lists for our last 4 years, our tentative list for 2007-2008, and an excellent list of literary elements and their definitions (hat tip to our expert Dr. P). A great resource for choosing books is Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, and  Literature Alive by Cay Gibson is full of wonderful ideas for bringing books – and book clubs alive.  If you have any questions about a specific book, what activities we did etc., just let me know. Book club is really one of our favorite parts of homeschooling and I hope that this rather long post might give you a few ideas for starting your own group.  Time is fleeting – read!

— Marjorie

PS – For more information on how to lead the discussion check out this follow up post.

Book Club 2007-2008 (tentative)

Robin Hood
Mary Poppin
Roller Skates
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
Poetry Unit – Poet TDB
My Side of the Mountain
Van Gogh’s Cafe and Author study of Cynthia Rylant

Book List 2006-2007

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Biography of Helen Keller
Tuck Everlasting By Natalie Babbitt
A Single Shard By Linda Sue Park
St. John Bosco and St. Dominic Savio (Vision)
Trumpet of the Swan By E.B. White
Catherine, Called Birdy By Karen Cushman
Little Britches By Ralph Moody
Poetry Unit-  TBA

Book List 2005-2006
Fairy Tales Unit Study
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Wheel on the School by Mei, DeJong
Redwall by Brian Jacques
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli
Brightly of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry
Caddie Woodlawn by Carolyn Brink
The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth
From the Mixed-up Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Koenigsberg

Book List 2004-2005
Dandelions by Eve Bunting
Anne of Green Gables
Babe the Gallant Pig
The Incredible Journey
Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
Advent/Christmas Tomie De Paolo Unit
Pinocchio
Understood Betsy
The Secret Garden

Book List 2003-2004 (We were not in the club this year)
All-of-a Kind a Family
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Daniel’s Duck
Ginger Pye
Hundred Dresses
The Little House on the Prairie
The Mouse on the Motorcycle
Old Yeller
The Rag Coat
Sarah Plain and Tall
The Whipping Boy

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