Starting a Review Club

When I returned from NCTE and ALAN with boxes of books for my classroom, I held a book pass to expose my students to the new titles entering the room. Many of the titles are 2017 releases, which always excites them since they get to read them before anyone else. Since I do this and since these titles haven’t released yet, I haven’t had the chance to read them myself.

Ten years ago when I began teaching I almost always read every single book that entered my classroom. Now that I’ve created such an expansive classroom library and have cultivated a culture of reading in my classroom, I can’t always keep up with my students. I don’t always read every single book I bring into my room. Don’t get me wrong, even with a toddler and a baby on the way, I’m still reading as much as I can as often as I can. But I felt like I needed to do something about the books I haven’t read yet.

My honors freshmen are voracious readers, so I decided to try something with them in regards to these books I haven’t read. I spoke with them about my situation and asked if any of them would be interested in reviewing some of these titles for me. We gathered a small stack of books that I haven’t read, made a list of interested students, and started passing them out. I created a sign-up list on my board. We decided on a process.

My third block honors freshmen have asked for new titles every couple of weeks so they have more time to read the book of their choice and then pass it on to the next person on the list. My first block honors freshmen said they want new books as often as possible (this class tends to read at a faster pace). Once one student is finished with the book, he/she passes it on to the next student on the list. After he/she finishes the book, a review is written and given to me, but we also sit and discuss the likes/dislikes. So far there have been more enthusiastic likes than dislikes! This process gives my students some ownership in the classroom, helps me build deeper relationships with them when we discuss the books, helps the students form relationships with one another as they discuss their common read, and also helps me gain some insight on the books before I read them myself!

Right now I’m thinking about arranging some kind of display in my classroom with these titles and recommendations, but I’m still not sure what it should look like. If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them!

These are the titles my freshmen have been sharing so far:

  • This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston (Goodreads)
  • The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Goodreads)
  • Ever the Hunted¬†by Erin Summerill (Goodreads)
  • The Murderer’s Ape¬†by Jakob Wegelius (Goodreads)
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