How to make your literature circle activities PAPERLESS

Make your literature circles activities PAPERLESS

Make your book clubs / literature circles digital and paperless using Google Classroom
I love using book clubs (also known as literature circles) in my classroom. However, the amount of papers needing to be organized and passed out continuously stressed me out. The packets were big and cumbersome, and it always resulted in more work for me as the teacher when a student lost their packet. My world of literature circles completely changed when  I realized how easy that literature circles could be if they were made digital using Google Classroom. It felt great to bring my literature circles into the 21st century and paperless using Google Drive & Classroom! You may notice in the photos that I use actual books instead of e-readers... which makes book club not completely paperless. That is up to you! My classroom is not 1:1, so e-readers are not an option for me! You can still have a paperless book club even without being 1:1!

Below, read eight easy steps to create a paperless book club! There are lots of different ways to do book clubs, I am just sharing what I like best in my room. Feel free to leave comments about how you run yours in the classroom, I am always looking for new ideas to incorporate into my teaching and LOVE hearing from you!
Literature circle activities


Book clubs consist of a group of students reading the same book, then discussing. In order to do this, you need to group your students! I generally like 4-5 kids per group.There are two different ways that I create groups for book clubs that I believe work best. You can....


I most often group my students by reading level. I always look for books that are just slightly above the students' reading level. We assess the DRA at my school, so I try to balance out the DRA level with which books that I think students can "handle." Grouping by reading level is nice because it is easier as a teacher to figure out the appropriate number of pages for students each week, since you have a better sense of how much they can read in a week without getting frustrated or stressed out. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of which books are too "hard" or too "easy" for students.


The other way to group is by interest. I have a pretty good idea what each student in my class is interested in (dogs, sports, nature, etc.) so I can mix reading ability this way. Students who are interested in and are eager to read a certain book are going to keep a growth mindset and conquer reading a book, even if the reading level is a bit more challenging or easier than usual. Remember, book clubs allow for self-differentiation. A too-easy book for a high student can still provide a plethora of ways for critical and higher-level thinking in terms of the assignment given. Sometimes a less-than-challenging book allows a less confident student to decipher and interpret it in more complex ways.


Literature circle activities
Now, I KNOW that the title of this post is how to make your literature circle paperless. But you know what? I prefer reading a hands-on, physical book as opposed to a tablet. I notice that most of my students are the same. I'm personally not much of an e-reader, and many of my students do not have Kindles or iPads to read on at home. If your school is 1:1, this is definitely a great option! Otherwise, paper books work great! You can also give students an option. Sometimes students will purchase the electronic copy to have at home on their Kindle, or even will bring their device in from home to read on it. I do not push students to read either on a device or in a book- the choice is up to them!

If you want a ton more information on literature circle books, make sure to read my blog post all about choosing the PERFECT literature circle book - read it here!

Now, time to find which books that each group will read. Take a walk over to your school's reading room to find some books! Don't have a reading room, or are you not thrilled with the selection? You can prep for book club with a variety of methods.

Finding classroom sets of books for teachers

  • Firstly, you could buy the books for cheap in the New/Used section of Amazon. 
  • Check out the $1 deals on Amazon
  • Purchase the books on Scholastic, and use all the points you get to receive more books for free. 
  • Look into Donor's Choose to fund your book club and set up a project to better your classroom.
  • Submit a purchase order for books from Amazon into your school finance person.
  • Ask your reading specialist or school librarian if they have any extra funds for books 

When choosing the books, I love to lean toward the classics. Many students are so enthralled with their Wimpy Kid series or Harry Potter (nothing against Harry Potter.... I am an HP fiend. #teamslytherin), that there are many classics and award-winners that they choose not to pick up. Many of the best children's books are passed up because some of the covers look "old" or outdated to students. I like to use book clubs as a way to get those sorts of books into the hands of my students. Students often discover new genres or series through the "forced" reading of book club.

I noted some of my favorite books for book clubs in third or fourth-grade that my students particularly enjoy as well. I also included Amazon links if you're unfamiliar with the book or want to check out the new/used prices! Don't forget to check out my complete blog post about choosing the perfect literature circle books - click here!


(Glitter in Third is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising feeds by advertising and linking to Amazon.).


Literature circle activities
I like to sit down ahead of time and map out all the pages that the kids will be reading. My first year I started teaching, I would assign pages on the spot. This resulted in a lot of unequal pages for various weeks. Instead, I now decide how long I want to do book clubs. I usually do four weeks. I take the total amount of pages in a book and divide by four. This number is roughly how many pages they will read each week. I say roughly because I like to end on the end of a chapter, so sometimes their reading will be a little longer or shorter to ensure that the last page they read each weeks finishes at the end of a chapter.

My Literature Circle for Google Drive & Classroom resource has a spot in the beginning where you can first choose the number of weeks for the kids to complete a book, then they have spots to write down all the pages. This is a great way for the kids to keep track of their reading and what their roles/responsibilities are! When I assign these, I have an iPad at the seat of each spot at my guided reading table. When I call a group over to my small table to meet, students quickly log in, then fill out the pages and their role for the week. This way, I know that all the students have it written down and can be held accountable if they did not do the assignment.


Literature circle activities expectations
As with anything in the classroom, I believe that expectations are the most important step to ensure that everyone is the on the same page.

My students and I work together to create an anchor chart for "looks like" and "sounds like." We talk about what the discussion looks like (students focusing/getting to the small table quickly/bringing all supplies) as well as what the discussion sounds like (one voice at a time/speaking in a level 2 during discussion/level 0 while reading).

I always act as the student and demonstrate each role and what is expected using a read aloud book that we are working on. That way, all the kids are familiar with the story we are discussing and can focus on how I am completing each role. I show my thought process while thinking through it for the Summarizer role, then write a summary. For discussion leader, I demonstrate how to take the information from the chapter to write an open-ended question. For Word Wizard, I pull out a dictionary and show how I find some difficult words from the chapter to research. Demonstrating each role has a tremendous impact on students regarding what is expected of them, and really does stick with them.

Finally, I email home an example of what constitutes a 4, 3, 2, and 1. Of course this depends on your parental community, but at my school the parents are very involved. They want their student to do well, and sometimes don't realize if their students' work is not the best that they can do. Having an actual visual of what the work would look like to receive a 4 is extremely helpful. Sending home an actual example helps parents encourage their students at home and also serves as a way for parents to remember to remind their students to read (because let's face it, third-graders are very much still learning how to be responsible. Parents help make this learning possible!).


I use literacy stations in my classroom. During our book club cycles, one of our stations is Book Club work (the other stations are generally DEAR, reading comp, and small group time when I work on a specific reading strategy or skill with the students). Kids can take their book home and read for the required 20 minutes a night, and they are also more than welcome to do book club work at home. It is up to them! It is a great way to teach time management to kids. Often kids will want to spend most of the language arts block independently reading, so many of my kiddos will take their work home to make sure that this happens.

When a student is working on book club in the classroom, they simply grab a laptop or iPad when the rotate to the book club station. Then, they quickly log on to Google Classroom and get to work! We practice how to log on/off all year long, so students become pretty skilled at it quickly in the year! It can be frustrating in the beginning - keep practicing! It will eventually become like clockwork!

I use my Literature Circle for Google Drive resource to conduct my book clubs, available here. My roles generally consist of:

  • Discussion Leader: Come up with higher-level questions from the reading and lead meeting
  • Word Wizard: Use a dictionary to learn new words from reading
  • Character Comparer: Compare two characters of one's choice on a Venn diagram
  • Summarizer: Write a summary from the reading
  • Connection Conductor: Find connections to your own life from reading
  • Perspective Person: Write a letter from a specific character regarding what is happening in the chapter.
Feel free to use the roles above to create your own, or pick up the resource here to save you time and make it a no-prep activity!

Each week, I assign one role per student (if your groups are large, double up on a role). The student comes ready to share their role with the group the following week.


Literature circle activities
I meet weekly with my students. Book clubs can be personal- I want the kids to read the book and enjoy it, not feel rushed to finish. Some teachers I know have book club meets a few times a week. I personally feel like this is too much - I am an advocate for encouraging reading for pleasure at a young age. However, I also see how this would be a good way to track your students and ensure that they are keeping up with the work. So anything that works best in your classroom- you know your kiddos best!

My book club meetings are in place of any guided reading/small group work. What I love about book clubs is that it is mainly student directed. Whichever one of my students is Discussion Leader leads the discussion. I am there to monitor the discussion and make sure everyone is on task... but for the most part, I pretend that I'm simply a fly on the wall. I want to hear their ideas, not project my own ideas!

In the beginning of the year as they are first learning how book clubs are conducted, I serve more as a mediator and leader. It is a lot of fun to start loosening up on the reins and passing on the leadership role as they become more comfortable. I also tell the kids that they are graded on participation- which involves listening as much as it does talking. Often kids (and adults.... I am often 100% guilty of this) wait for others to finish talking but are not listening to what they are saying. Participation is listening to others and voicing one's own opinion in a respectful manner.

When you meet, I find it easiest to have an iPad at the seat of each spot on your guided reading table. When their group is called, students will find a spot at the table, log in to their Google Drive, pull up the literature circle role for the week, and the discussion will start!


Literature circle activities rubric
I use a rubric each week to grade my students. I have this on each of their Google Drive assignments, so all I have to do is drag a circle over each grade that they receive. I like to break up my grades into the sections of Listening, Discussion, Role fulfillment, and Participation. I do mine on a 1, 2, 3, 4 scale. Dragging a circle over their grade makes it super quick and easy- I actually great during the last few minutes of their discussion group! Students can also instantly see what their grade it, which offers instant feedback and reflection.


You can create your own book clubs using Google Drive! Hopefully this post gave you ideas regarding what roles to do and how to set it up. I also offer my Literature Circles for Google Drive to save you time. It includes discussion expectations, an assignment page, discussion starters, an editable grading rubric, and six different roles for students.

Resources featured in post available at Glitter in Third on TPT

Online Literature circle activities        

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How do you do book clubs in your classroom? Is this something you'll be doing this year? Have you tried doing it online before? Tell me about it below!

Make your book clubs paperless using Google Drive & Google Classroom

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