Most teachers have heard of Literature Circles, or Classroom Book Clubs, but many find it difficult to add them to an already packed schedule. However, it's worth finding time to implement Classroom Book Clubs because this program is actually aligned with the first Common Core Speaking and Listening Standard for your grade level.
In the elementary grades, the first CCSS Speaking & Listening standard reads like this,
"Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade x topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly."
Literary Lunch Bunches are fun, informal Literature Circles that kids attend on a voluntary basis. The program is called Literary Lunch Bunch because you hold the meetings during lunch, in your classroom or another quiet area (such as outside at a picnic table). Many teachers have told me that they use like this model because they believe in literature circles but don't have time to implement them during the rest of the day.
How to Start a Lunch Bunch Group
You can select a book that you like, or you can ask the kids what they would like to read. Let the interest level and the abilities of your students determine the reading pace. I generally divide a novel into 4 parts, and we take 2 weeks to read the book. We have 2 meetings a week, for example on Tuesday and Friday. I have learned that if you take any longer to read the book, kids lose interest and drop out. If you use the Reading workshop approach, students can do the reading during class. If not, they may need to complete their reading at home.
Lunch Bunch Preparation Bookmarks
This model is very similar to the Classroom Book Clubs model except that students meet during lunch rather than during the reading block or at some other time during the school day. The only requirement for attending the Lunch Bunch meetings is to read the assigned section and complete their Lunch Bunch Bookmark. They use these bookmarks to jot down things they want to discuss in the meeting. They also use them to record the pages they need to read for the next meeting. You don't have to require any type of assignment, but the meetings are more exciting when kids have taken time to think about what they want to discuss. I created two variations, one with cute bookworm clipart and one with clipart suitable for older students.
Students never receive any type of grade for their participation in a Literary Lunch Bunch because the purpose is to foster a love of of reading. If they haven't done the reading or filled out the slip, they can't attend that day's meeting. If they are prepared for the next meeting, they may join in again. Most kids come prepared because the love the special privilege of meeting with their friends in the classroom instead of having to eat in the cafeteria.
Your Role in Literary Lunch Bunch Meetings
You might be wondering if this means you have to give up your lunch break to meet with your students. I used to join in with the kids and eat my lunch along with them, but one day I had some things to do and I told them to meet without me. Of course I stayed in the room with them, but I was eating my own lunch and working on something else. These were 5th graders so they were very independent and I figured they would be okay since they had their discussion slips. Oh my! They had so much fun on their own! They were much more open with each other and were engaged in great questioning and discussion about the book. They stayed on topic and really enjoyed themselves. From that day on, I never met with another Literary Lunch Bunch group!
Teaching Discussion Strategies
If you have younger students and don't feel they will be able to function on their own, feel free to change the model so you are meeting with them, at least at first. You can teach them strategies like using Talking Sticks to equalize participation, and eventually they will be able to meet without you at the table. In the Talking Sticks strategy, each student receives three craft sticks and each time they want to speak, they hold up a stick and the teacher or leader chooses someone to speak. The student who is selected places a stick in the team cup. When students run out of sticks, they can't participate until everyone else has used all of his or her sticks. Kids love this activity because it ensures that everyone gets an equal chance to participate.