Facebook Book Club: Engaging Intermediate Readers

As spring rounds the corner, most intermediate students take on a new focus, which often does not include classroom work.  So it’s important to find activities that keep these adolescents engaged in their learning.  As a result, Marc Westra, from Brussels P.S., and I have introduced our students to the “Facebook Book Club”.

Last term, Marc’s intermediate class and mine completed a collaborative book club using VoiceThread, which I wrote about in a previous post.  With the year-end approaching, we wanted something equally engaging, but with a change.  Our classrooms are located 11 km. apart so we needed a tool that allowed communication and collaboration between our students’ group.

I had previously read about the Facebook idea from other educators and it seemed like fun.  Marc and I decided to have each book club set up one shared Facebook page for the protagonist in their novel.  On a weekly basis, each student will post a comment in the voice of the protagonist, as a friend, and add a reply to a comment.  In addition, they’ll add all the necessary “Personal Information” as they became that character.  Students are encouraged to customize their pages as they add extras such as video links or quizzes.

Some versions I have come across use an online tool (Fakebook, Fake Convos) or a Google Presentations template.  While the Presentations template is easier for the students to change, it lacks the sidebar “chat room” available in a Google Doc.  To me, the chat room is necessary as students discuss, plan and create together.  Other Google Docs templates I’d come across were broken into several documents.  Because this is a group activity where students are at different schools and communication is limited, I thought it easiest to keep the Facebook page as one doc.  The template I created is flexible, yet provides enough guidelines for those students who don’t have a Facebook page.  It’s important to remember that not all parents allow their children to use Facebook, so these students needed a completed example.  With this in mind, I created an example Facebook page, featuring my pet cat!

Today Marc and I introduced the project to our students via Skype.  As per our previous book club, we let the students choose their books after spending some time reading bits of each.  To start, we shared the Facebook Club doc which includes the outline and rubric.  This doc also includes the links to the template doc and the example.  During the skype call, Marc and I took turns explaining the project.  At first, I wasn’t sure how it was going over – the kids were speechless.  However after they had some time to digest the idea and muck around in the two shared docs, they were thrilled.  Those students who don’t have Facebook accounts looked a little nervous, but soon they were hooked as well.

Since Marc’s students didn’t have access to computers at their school today, I didn’t want to proceed too quickly into the project.  My students were asked to post an image of the protagonist in the collaborative doc.  In the next few days when the groups “meet” again in the doc, students can discuss and agree on the image and some of the “personal information”.  I have stressed with the students the importance that all group members work towards an agreement on some of the initial page information, and not “take over” the Facebook page doc.  “The process is just as important as the product.”

This project will take us to the end of the school year.  Based on the excitement displayed by the students today, reading is a task that they should enjoy with renewed focus!


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