We have jumped into our dystopian book club unit! Originally, our plan was to essentially replicate what we did last year because of the success we had with it. However, we had some realizations that made us make some revisions.

One, our students are October seventh graders and not April seventh graders. Believe it or not, there’s a big difference between the two. We didn’t feel that they were quite ready for full-on book discussion “days” at this point – which is okay, because they haven’t been taught those skills yet. With this realization, we knew that we had to make a change. Instead of having 2 discussion days per week, they are discussing daily for about 5-10 minutes. The routine goes something like this: group discussion based on the previous day’s mini-lesson; new mini-lesson; apply mini-lesson while reading. It seems to be going okay thus far.

Two, we didn’t want to scare our kids by going full-on Seilahria. Last year, we covered our bulletin boards with black plastic tablecloths, took down non-essential posters/decorations, and made our classrooms look very dystopian. We enforced our newly imposed classroom rules on them, rewarded students with “dystopian dollars” that they could redeem for a variety of privileges (that we had taken away), and “punished” students by having them wipe desks/pick up trash from the floor/etc. This year, we introduced the rules, but that’s about it. As we reflect, we realize that part of the reason kids were so involved in this unit last year was because of all those extra things we did. So, I anticipate re-instating dystopia in a more full-scale way next year.

Three, our kids needed to find their reading “spark.” Many of these kiddos are reluctant readers, and our hope was for dystopia to get them reading. For some of them, it has done just that. However, the question we’re asking right now is: Is this too early in the year? There is a lot of maturing that happens each year in middle school, and this may be a unit that needs to happen later because of that. 

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that the unit isn’t going well – it is! It’s just…different this year, which is to be expected. Right now, the job is to keep them excited about their books, while figuring out how to make it even better next year.