RMBA as an Extracurricular Program

RMBA as a Co-curricular Activity
by Michelle Dimnik (michelle.dimnik@lethsd.ab.ca)

Getting started : Co-curricular was really my only option. I do not teach regular classroom but I wanted the opportunity to do this book club with students (readers) who were in grades 4 & 5. Pick a lunch hour, fill out your forms and set your limit (although personally I don’t have one but I do have another teacher helping me manage it.) I run this co-curricular from end of November (so that they can read over Christmas holidays) until March (which is usually when we vote.) We meet again to find out who the winner is and to plan a little announcement or skit to do at Assembly to let the rest of the school know. My co-curricular group knows who the winner is shortly after I do.

Use books that you know and love . RMBA is my passion and I spend a lot of time reading books for this award so it is an obvious choice for me. These books are also accessible. Our school always orders them (30% off from Save On Foods or ULS) and I usually have some of my own personal copies. I can also borrow some from the RMBA committee. I sign out all the present RMBA books and then the students sign them out from me using the old fashion card system. They carry the books to and from in a specially marked RMBA envelope to protect them and so others know who to return them to if they are left around the school.

Book Chats . I go into all the Grade 4 & 5classrooms and do a 20-minute presentation about RMBA book club. I show the students the website and previous books and winners. I do not handout the co-curricular sign up forms until the following week so that the students can think about it, talk to parents and check out the web site. I do give them a copy of the recent RMBA pamphlet as it has all the titles listed. The Librarian helps promote the award and book club for me too. (Display and forms in the Library) She also talks it up with the Grade 3 students (for next year). Our school also does a “Rocky Mountain Boulevard Award” for Grades 1 – 3. It is a completely different award than RMBA but it has been very successful and leads nicely into my award.

Getting Students Reading : When all the paper work is in, I ask the students to come to the designated classroom with their lunch (no microwave food) and their agenda so that we can write down all the RMBA dates. I also ask that they come down as soon as the bell rings so that we can start reading, book chatting, discussing, and “eating” our way through as many of the 20 titles as possible. Some titles need little or no promoting; others I need to read a good chunk of it to capture their attention. I also use this time to talk about authors/illustrators that I have met and other favourite books of mine. I always highlight the past RMBA winners for them. (“If 593 students voted this book as their favourite in 2006 then you will want to read it too.”)

RMBA Weekly Activities : Each week I try to plan a different book activity for them. For example: reading a story until I come to the cliff hanger and then I stop; reading a review from the paper about a book in the list or a book that is similar or by the same author; visiting the lab so that we can read student/adult reviews and check out the website; study authors/illustrators; discuss former RMBA winners; thumbs up/thumbs down reviews; guess the character (give them clues); round table discussions; student book chats (I usually set students up for this at first); “did you know” facts from the factual books; dramatize a scene (Challenge group); charades with book titles. If a class has done one of these titles (novel study), I share the projects that they have done with them (book sandwich). I also give the students a list of websites that will encourage the students to check out books, authors/illustrators and book clubs on line.

Organizing: On the first day of RMBA Book Club, I give the students a duo-tang with sheets in them that will help them keep track of what books they read and what they thought of them(they rate them from one to ten). They only need to read 5 titles to vote but most will read more than that. If I find that a student has only read 3 or 4 and it is getting close to voting time then I will find a way to help them get to 5 titles.

Getting Students Hooked: I think that the greatest aspect to RMBA and getting students “hooked” is my personal enthusiasm. I get REALLY excited about this co-curricular and I LOVE to see students enjoy reading. I stay positive and I never get upset if a book is lost (I hope that they will replace it) or annoyed if a book is renewed a few times. I do sometimes have to chase down the student and remind them others want to read it too but generally I am so HAPPY when a student has a hard time giving me back a RMBA book. (“WOW, this must be a really good book if you want to renew it again”). I also remind students that they don’t have to finish the book. I tell them that I don’t finish books that I am not enjoying or I tell them to try it again later.

There are 2 other things that I do to make this group a little more “rewarding”. I bring treats (randomly for the whole group and every week for the students who help clean up.) I also give an RMBA book to my top reader(s).

I have done A LOT of co-curricular activities over my 23 years of teaching but this is by far the best !

Please feel free to email me if you have any further questions, comments or suggestions. I would love to talk RMBA and/or Book Clubs with you.