Saturday, June 3, 2017

Mock Newbery Questions Answered (Part Two)

Hopefully, many of you with questions read {Part One} of my Mock Newbery Questions Answered series and are now ready for Part Two! Part Two will focus on what to do once you get your books...

How do you get kids excited? What do you do once they've signed up? Before my teaching partner and I created a sign up, we gave a book talk to all our students. We knew that for many of them our Open House Letter {2018 Letter} may not be enough to get kids pumped for a great book club! So, we took about 20 - 30 minutes out of our day and book talked our first round of books. We also hooked kids by sharing about author Skypes and some books we'd be getting that weren't released yet! Last year a huge draw was being one of the first few to read Raina Telgemeier's Ghosts. Book Talks and Book Trailers are a great way to generate some excitement before starting a sign-up. I keep my Book Talks super simple - read the first page/line of a book and show a trailer if it's available. You can check out a book talk I did for our last year's Mock {here}.

What is required once they sign up? Last year, we made the kids "pledge" that they'd read six books from our list of 18. However, with bigger than expected turnout and some readers that read at a slower pace, the average student only finished 2-4 books. This was a bit of a let down for me. I was really hoping kids would fly through the choices and while they did love the books - many just didn't have the stamina to read a book every two weeks. This year, I'm going to have to my students pledge to read four books. That's a book a month during the book club. They can always read more. I think that is feasible and they can always use that book as their in class reading book as well. I also chunked my books into two huge chunks this year to get more books out and circulating within the club.

Okay, teachers, let's get real for a second here. The purpose of Mock Newbery (IMO) is for students to begin to participate in real life, authentic reading. This is NOT be taken for a grade. No worksheets. No book reports. Keep it authentic. Make it optional. I've never done a worksheet or created a cereal box book report at a book club meeting. In real life, you sit and have coffee and talk about books. What did you love? What was frustrating? What surprised you? This is how a real book club works and this should be the focus of Mock Newbery as well. Yes, you can plan activities to help aid conversations but it should feel authentic. Help kids see that reading is a life long habit and a fun hobby.

How do you keep track and check out books? I keep it super simple. Stacey from Literacy for Big Kids helped me out so much during my first year of Mock Newbery. I had asked her this same question and she shared her checkout page with me! I updated it to fit my needs. Here's the Google Doc I came up with! You could easily keep this electronically but I prefer to print it out and put it on a clipboard right on the corner of my desk.

As a kid checks out or in a book - I can mark it off. I also numbered all my books hence the (#) column so I could keep track of copies that were left or dropped in the hallway. I decided it was easiest to highlight returned books, so I took off the return column later in the year. Feel free to make a copy and adjust to fit your needs!

What does the first meeting look like? Last year during our first meeting we talked about the requirements for the Newbery. There is a pretty good short video explaining the medal {here}. We then talked about what being "distinguished" meant. This was something that many students hadn't really thought about as they were reading before so we talked about how that's the purpose of the actual Newbery Committee- read, looking for those elements that are distinguished.

I also shared The Last Stop on Market Street with my students as an example of a distinguished text. We ran of time last year before we could fully discuss all the great writing found in The Last Stop on Market Street. This year I have two picture books I'd like to share - The Last Stop on Market Street and Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children's Books.

I'm hoping to break it into two meetings or perhaps even share one in class as way to generate some buzz before sign-ups. I highly recommend buying or checking these books out from the library if you're planning on hosting a Newbery Book Club. We also made an anchor chart at one of our first meetings that reminded students what to look for in a Newbery winner such as unique & distinguished: characters, setting, plot, language or style/format.

What do meetings look like? When do you hold meetings? Who runs the meetings? I tried to have a Skype a month (or so) and then also a meeting each month for discussion. We varied the activities from creating medals to hosting a round table discussion about the distinguished qualities of the books we were reading. I also set up a Mock Newbery group on Google Classroom for kids to go on and post thoughts as they were reading.

This year, I want to capitalize on Flipgrid and set up a grid where kids can give their own book talk and reviews as well as feedback about what distinguished characteristics they noticed. I'm hoping that utilizing platforms online like Google Classroom and Flipgrid will keep the converstations going between meetings.

In December, we held a full group meeting to discuss our favorite contenders. Kids were able to stand up and give reasons why their favorite books should win our Infinity Newbery. Prior to the debate kids were able to get into groups and come up with the top three reasons that their book should win the Newbery, keeping in mind they had to prove it was distinguished in some way.

Here are a few snapshots of our Round Table discussion & Skype with author Melanie Conklin! 
I also saved several meetings for additional book talks. I released books by month last year and so we'd also allow time for checking out and returning books as well as book talking and highlighting books that were being released. I also used this time to feature books that may not be on our list but were still worth reading and considering. We also held an optional medal design contest. We couldn't award a winner without a medal! So I challenged my students to create their own that highlighted their values of reading. We also had a very special guest, Elaine Fultz, come join us for a meeting. She was a member of the 2017 Newbery Selection Committee and she was able to share some of her notes and reading habits with us -- which was a fantastic way to get a glimpse into a REAL Newbery member's world!

At our last meeting, we voted on the winner using Google Forms. We had previously (after our debate) narrowed down our choices of 18+ titles to the top five favorites. Our vote was incredibly split - showing just how many great books students read and loved. However, our ultimate winner was The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.

Who plans the meetings? Do you read any of the books as a class read aloud? Last year, I planned all the meetings but ultimately the kids were the discussion facilitators. They lead discussions in their groups and with others and carried out the conversations. We were all equals in our discussions and thoughts. I didn't read any of the books with my students. All Mock Newbery reading was independent last year. I did read a few sections of Pax with all my students since it was the Global Read Aloud but I did not choose to read any of them as a whole class read aloud. I know several teachers that did read some of the books as a class so that is always an option.

When did you hold meetings?  Luckily, we have an hour of "intervention" time in our building known as FLEX time. This is a time when students get special services outside the classroom like gifted support and reading intervention. On Fridays, all students stay with their teachers for intervention or enrichment activities like Genius Hour. I was able to schedule our meetings on Fridays, so that any student that wanted to attend could come to our monthly meetings. However, I know that many other teachers held their meetings after school so that entire grade levels could get involved as well as other teachers.

Hopefully, you found the information you were looking for! 
If you still have questions post them in the comments below! 

Happy Reading,


  1. How many copies do you purchase of each book?

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