Loved That Lesson! Balancing Power in Book Clubs

It’s time for another “Loved That Lesson” linky…I’d sure love to get more bloggers linking up sharing their great teaching ideas!  Spread the news!  It’s still planned for the second Sunday of each month…just plain ol’ good teaching and learning!

Today I thought I’d do a piggyback off my post the other day where I shared about how I had my students create their own reading book club schedules…and our clubs have started!  Even though we have done other book clubs this year, I am really pushing my students to run these themselves.  I don’t even sit with the group…I sit 4-5 feet away and don’t even act like I’m listening.  I really want to serve more as a coach than a teacher.
In order to do this, we really have to work on our group dynamics.  We are getting really good at piggybacking off each other and other great “talk moves”, but I am still noticing that I have a handful of students who are still not actively engaged in their groups–and a few who really take charge and maybe…just MAYBE…monopolize the conversation a little bit.  So what was my lesson for each book group on Thursday?
 When I saw the first group struggling a little bit, I sat there watching two students take charge and two others sit relatively silent.  I saw one of them TRYING to get a word in…but just couldn’t find an opening.  I quietly went over to my “closet of doom” and foraged.  I found a piece of elastic and tied it in a circle.  I asked the group to hold on to it.
 I then told them I wanted them to think about how much they participated in the group that day…and to pull to match–if they participated a lot, to pull hard if they participated a lot and to pull gently if they didn’t participate much at all.
 I snapped this picture as they did it…what do you notice?  That’s right!  My two “ends” pulled so hard (they were VERY proud of how much they participated!).  Check out the white knuckles on the far right–she almost pulled the team off the floor!  I told them that I agreed with their assessment…but then I asked the two “light pullers” how they felt.  It was the perfect opportunity for them to tell their teammates that it was hard to get a word in!  I reminded them that participation in a group needs to be balanced between sharing ideas, listening to others, and ENCOURAGING others to participate, especially if they are shy or less confident.  We brainstormed some ideas…
“Caty–what do YOU think about that?”
“Jacob, which character do YOU think should….”
“Marta, do you have a prediction to share?”
I then asked the group to try to balance the power–that some of them needed to pull a little harder and some needed to let go a little bit.  It was even tricky with the elastic!  My “pullers” just didn’t want to give in!  We had a great discussion…and set “balanced power” as their main book club goal.
I met with another group and watched a FANTASTIC discussion–with 4 of the 5 members.  When the discussion was over, I poured a pile of counters in the middle of the group.  I asked them to take a counter for every time they thought they participated in the discussion.  It was fascinating…they struggled at first, until I reassured them that an estimate was just fine.  When they were done, We looked at their piles–and there were 4 even piles and one student sat with nothing in front of her.  Like the other group, we talked about balancing power–and how it is the responsibility of everyone in the group to be an active participant.  I acknowledged that the student who didn’t participate is extremely shy…and the other group members agreed.  We worked together to come up with a plan to help her–and she was willing to try the suggestions.  My students are so sweet–they all agreed that it is just as much their responsibility to include her as it is hers to jump in. I hope that each discussion gets a little easier for her!  I think the hands on representation of “group power” really made it “real” for the students–and gives us something to refer back to over the next weeks.
I can’t wait to see how their discussions improve over the next weeks…and I just love being on the outside observing!  Thanks so much for stopping by–and hopefully we’ll get some other posts linked up over the next week so keep checking back!