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Boys Book Club December 6, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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Some boys are reluctant readers, and when they do read, it’s not Junie B. Jones. Boys like non-fiction – dinosaurs, bats, and things that go bump in the night. Books with cool pictures of hairy cavemen carrying strategically placed clubs, or of a lion gutting an impala. Books with a high gross-out factor. You know, funny stuff.

Two years ago five boys in my room bought Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney at the school Book Fair. I’d never seen the boys so excited about reading. I’d recently joined a book club myself and suggested they could form a book club too. When I mumbled something about snacks, the boys were gung ho.

There was just one small problem. This meant I had to actually read Diary of a Wimpy Kid to come up with questions to discuss. It turned out the book was hilarious. Although the book is a 5.2 reading level per Accelerated Reader, my students seemed to understand most of it, so I thought it was worth a shot.

Author Jeff Kinney originally released Diary of a Wimpy Kid online on Funbrain.com in daily installments before he got a book deal. That should warm any blogger’s heart.

Boys Book Club met in the hallway outside our classroom. I propped the door open to keep an eye on the rest of the class while we discussed the questions. Our “signature drink” was apple juice, which is an excellent accompaniment to animal crackers. The boys were most excited because BBC (as it came to be known) did not involve bubbling in the correct answer like they have to on the weekly Open Court test.

As the boys discussed the questions, I learned way more about each boy than I’d known before. It was such a lively discussion that at one point I found myself thinking, “Wow!  This is why I became a teacher.” When we got to the question about nicknames, one of the two Korean boys only knew his nickname in Korean.  The other boy, whose English was much better, thought for a moment and then translated it into English as “Big Sweaty Boy.” We all laughed hysterically, as it was so appropriate. The questions for Diary of a Wimpy Kid at the end of this post. Feel free to steal them.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon Guys Read, a website devoted to getting boys excited about reading especially fiction. Guys Read was started by Jon Scieszka, the author of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, of which I just happen to have an autographed copy. Everything on Guys Read is incredibly clever, just like everything Scieszka writes.  If you know a guy, big or small, check it out.

Boys’ Book Club
Discussion Questions  for

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

by Jeff Kinney

1.  What made you want to read this book?

2. Do you think the book would be as funny without the illustrations?

3.  When you think of someone who is wimpy, what do you think they’re
like?

4.  Do you think that sometimes you are wimpy?  Why?

5.  The main character, Gregory, thinks his parents treat his younger brother
Manny better than they treat him.  Do you agree?  If you have a brother or
sister, do you think your parents ever treat them differently than you?

6.   Do you think it would be fun to make your own haunted house like Greg
did?  What would you put in it?

7.  When Greg takes wrestling, he’s paired up with Fregley (p. 83).  Have you ever been paired up with someone at school, who you didn’t want to be with? (no names, please!)  How did you deal with it?

8.  Greg told his brother not to circle all the expensive stuff he wanted for Christmas and just to circle a few medium priced gifts because he was more likely to get these.  Do you think this was smart advice?

9.  Greg’s brother, Manny, embarrassed him by calling him by his nickname, “Bubby.”  Do your parents ever call you a name that embarrasses you?

10.  The following expressions/idioms are in the book.  Do you know what they REALLY mean?

p. 18                  But no matter how many “noogies” I give him…
p. 19                  “take him under my wing”
p. 26                  “mopping the floor with him”
p. 30                  “caught red handed”

Comments»

1. Sheri O'Brien - December 6, 2009

Love it! Oh, how I wish I could get my students to that point. We’re lucky to stay upright in the chair. Good job, Jan!

Sheri – You are indeed a “special” teacher. Your students are lucky to have you. Jan

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2. Christine - December 6, 2009

I started Book Clubs about two weeks ago (after our data meetings), and found that segregating by sex really worked. I don’t know if I will get in trouble for this, but I have a boys group of four and a girls group of four. I switch the books around, so they all end up reading the same books eventually. Both groups meet in the hallway after lunch. This used to be my silent reading time. But now I have paired the really low readers inside the classroom and can work with them more individually. They compete wth each other to improve their fluency and know, when THEY get good enough, they can be in a Book Club too!

Christine – Every morning I read the NEA Morning Bell update (okay, sometimes). Within the last couple of months there was a story about starting book clubs for boys. I just went through the site’s archives looking for it. I didn’t find it, but I did read lots of interesting stuff. I’m just relieved that the middle schoolers who tried to poison their teacher were suspended, along with the ones who decided to “kick a ginger” in response to a South Park episode. You can’t make this sh*t up. Jan

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3. Catherine Sherman - December 7, 2009

Great post. I’d love to be in the room to listen. I’m going to forward a link to this post to friends who are teachers and mothers of boys (some of whom are both!)

My son Matt was never interested in reading fiction, but loved anything about machines, engines, science, etc. He did love the Dan Brown books because they were puzzles with facts (alleged) about history, science and religion, and he also voraciously read all of the Harry Potter books. Actually, Laura was the same way.

Catherine – When my son, Ian, enrolled in community college, he had to take an English placement exam. I couldn’t believe it when he told me he hadn’t read an entire book since 4th grade. Ouch! A psychologist actually told us that reading was “too slow” for Ian, who operates at twitch speed. He’d rather run 8 miles than read a page in a book. Go figure. Jan

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4. asbestasican - December 16, 2009

I love BBC! And I love Guys Read. My own son is a reluctant reader as well. However, this summer, he read the entire “Lightning Thief” series by Rick Riordan. I’ve suggested this book to several people and my boys at school can’t get enough of it. It’s probably leveled a bit higher than your students, but some of them might really enjoy it. Also, the Shredderman series is AWESOME. Happy reading and go, go, Jan! 🙂

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5. The Boys Are Not Alright « planetjan - January 17, 2011

[…] As a teacher and the mother of two boys, I found this fascinating. This year I applied for and received my first grant that provides funds to add more high-interest books for boys to the classroom library. I wrote more boys’ reading preferences in Boys Book Club. […]

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