How I Use Book Studies in the Classroom

Reading, Literacy Stations

Picture of girl reading a book

I have been using book studies in my classroom for as long as I have been teaching and it is a favorite time of mine and also for my students. Today I’m going to lay out how I use book studies in the classroom and why I find it to be a successful, engaging activity.

Why Do I Use Book Studies?

Book studies have many positive benefits.

  • Provides opportunities for students to practice decoding, reading fluently, and comprehending the story
  • Provides students a chance to practice writing their responses and restating the question in their answer
  • Gives an opportunity for students to work independently or with a team

Grades for Book Studies:

In my opinion, book studies can be used from first grade up.  I know you’re thinking first grade seems young and they are, but I have some students in my current class who are ready and just finished their first Nate the Great Book Study – with teacher guidance of course.  Now will all of my first graders participate in a book study this year….no. I have some students who struggle with reading and a book study would frustrate them.

When I taught second grade the last few years I had three whole class book studies (Charlotte’s Web, The Chocolate Touch, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) that we did together as a class. I also had multiple book studies going in small groups during literacy stations. The nice thing about book studies is there are books at a variety of levels.  So even if you have high readers or lower readers there will probably be a just right book for them to use during a book study.

Choosing Book Study Groups

An important thing to keep in mind when choosing which students you are putting together in a book study is who works well together (which you think about any time you put students into groups).  In addition to students who work well together, you want to also make sure you have students with similar reading levels. The goal of a book study isn’t for the higher student to help the struggling student read, but that they are similar levels and working together to read and comprehend.

You also want to consider how many students you want participating in the book study. I’ve done whole class book studies, small groups (3-4 students), partnership book studies, and independent ones.

So the biggest thing to keep in mind…

  • Who works well together
  • Behaviors
  • Reading levels

Choosing a Book

As I mentioned earlier in this blog post there are tons of books out there that fit many different reading levels.  You want to choose a book that the group , partnership, or child will be able to read independently.  You also want to choose a book that interests them. I will often pull out two-three book choices and give the group a chance to vote on which book they want to read. Choice helps with engagement and buy-in so I always try to let my students choose the book.

How do I find multiple sets of the book?

Scholastic is a great place to find multiple sets of books.  Often in the actual pamphlet/magazine thing that comes with the book orders they have options for you to order certain books in sets of 6.  This is a great way to build a little book study library of sorts.  You can also check out books from the library, shop at Good Will, buy them from Amazon, etc.

First Day

When starting a new book study with a small group I have the book and packet ready to go for day 1.  First, I go over the expectations. I explain to them that this is a special activity that they get to do and I need them to take it seriously.

Then, I hand out the books and the students make predictions about what will happen based on the cover.  We read the first chapter together out loud taking turns on each page.

After we read the first chapter we start answering the questions.  I like using these packets not only because students have to write their answer, but it also gives them practice writing in complete sentences.  I make sure students restate the question in their answer, include capitals, periods, etc.  So not only are the practicing their comprehension by answering the question, but they are also working on their written response skills.

After we’ve gone through the first set of questions I will often send the kids off on their own.  I’ve done this in 2nd grade and up.  I would not do this with first grade unless you have a teaching assistant, parent volunteer, older student they could work with, or if they are super mature.  Students in second grade and up I then send off to read the next chapter with their partner or group and answer the questions.  Once they are finished with a chapter they let me know and I pull them back to meet with them and review what was read.  The nice thing about this is it frees me up to pull other groups while they’re working on the independent portion of this.  This routine continues until they are finished with the book.

Picture of I Survived Book Study

Book Study Favorites

I’ve created a few different book study resources that I have used in my classroom including: Jake Drake series, Ivy and Bean, Cam Jansen, Nate the Great, Surprises According to Humphrey and more.  To see all of my book studies in my TPT store, click HERE.


FREE Book Study Discussion Cards

Grab a FREE set of Book Study Discussion Cards that can be used with any fiction story. Great for discussion and can also be used for written response. Click HERE for your FREEBIE.

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