Strengthening A Community Through Student-Led Book Talks

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Book Talks are a powerful ritual for creating a strong classroom connections.  Whether stories, informational texts, or websites are shared, each Book Talk presents opportunities for richer reading lives and a more connected community.  The process and elements for Book Talks are very simple.  

Time:  

Set time aside time each day for a Book Talk.  You only need 2-10 minutes for the presentation, questions, and comments.  Be flexible and use the time you have and remember…you have the entire school year to build and maintain this routine and ritual.  

Materials:  

Book Talks rely on a simple routine and accessible texts.  You select and present any reading resources that you think will enhance the reading lives of the community.  You can present and show the physical text in hand.  You can tap into Internet resources by showing book cover images, authors’ websites, book trailers, or informational websites on a Smart Board.  Visuals of any form make an impact on your audience.

Purpose:

Take time to explain why this book or resource was selected and worthy of the Book Talk ritual.  Why are you really excited about this resource for fellow readers?

Audience Connections:

Let readers know who might enjoy this story or resource.

  • This is a book for readers who enjoy…
  • If you are interested in _______________ this might be the website for you.
  • Are you looking for a new genre in your reading life?  This might get you excited about…

Conversations:

The conversational nature of this ritual provides time to ask questions or make comments.  These inclusive and positive interactions strengthen the connections between readers while building a supportive community.  

Whether I am sharing new titles after a trip to my favorite book store, the next installment in a book series, or introducing an author new to the publishing scene, I want students to realize that I value Book Talks because our independent reading lives matter.  Our talks allow me to share my own enthusiasm for old favorites or new discoveries while adding possibilities to students’ To Be Read lists.   

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Student-Led Book Talks

The power of Book Talks increases exponentially as soon as students take on the responsibilities and leadership of this ritual.  Book Talks actively show students that individuals add important and powerful elements to our learning community.  As I launch the year modeling the process of Book Talks, my students and I create a chart showing the elements of a an effective book chat, connecting students to the community ritual.

Book Talk Elements

  • Title or Web Address
  • Positive Purpose:  Why is this worthy of a Book Talk?
  • Audience:  Who might like this book or resource?
  • Awareness:  Here are some things you should know about this book/resource/website….

 

By the third week of school, I present the class calendar and invite students to consider scheduling a 2-5 minute Book Talk.  Just like the boundaries of Haiku or an Ignite presentation, time limits require students to be thoughtful and intentional about their selections and messages to the community.

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Students present books and resources in a variety of ways.  Here are few examples of how students present their ideas:

Casual Chat

A student sits before the group and talks about the book or resource.

Slides

A student picks 3-5 images that help structure the presentation around important elements worthy of the preview.  The visual presentations are not only interesting, but they offer support for students less comfortable speaking in front of the group.  Slides offer dignified support to ELL students that may need text or vocabulary reminders.

iMovie

Using this versatile and creative tool, students develop their own book trailer and share important elements of the book or resource.  I then upload these trailers to our class website via Youtube.

Posters

Traditional or digital posters add a supportive visual to a student’s book talk and then serve as a reminder to other interested readers.

 

Considering Book Talks

Cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach argue that humans survive and thrive because we live in a rich ecosystem of knowledge. Thinking is more than just an individual’s pursuit, but it is a social effort as well.  I believe that classroom communities grow stronger with shared rituals.  A person’s intellectual and social growth is supported, enriched, and expanded by experiences with the people of a valued community. Supported experiences like Book Talks build powerful connections between learners, empowered by a community where ideas, resources, enthusiasm and questions can always be shared.

 

Book Talks are more than just an opportunity to practice public speaking skills.  The simple act of exchanging book recommendations and listening to one another’s opinions provides each student with a glimpse into the reading lives of peers.  Friendships can bloom when two people are fans of the same author.  Respect for the diverse range of interests and expertise within a class take center stage as informational texts and websites are shared.  Experiencing what it feels like to have supportive listeners in one’s life is refreshing.  A caring community based on a love of reading is time well spent.

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5 thoughts on “Strengthening A Community Through Student-Led Book Talks

  1. Some of my favorite people in those pictures!! Great post, Andrea!! I can absolutely use this at a college level this fall to build community and shared knowledge of books. Love!!

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  2. Thank you for your kind comments! I am so excited to hear about your upcoming work at Capital. Always remember that Room 151’s door is always open for you and your students! We need to visit SOON!

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  3. Thanks for sharing, Andrea! I always try to incorporate book talks multiple times each week. I also like how you included the digital options as well. My students love making iMovie trailers and sharing with their classmates. It’s amazing how a simple 1:30 minute book trailer made by a peer can propel a book off the classroom library shelf! I’m going to experiment with Glogster this year as a digital poster tool. Thanks for sharing your expertise on this topic!

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    1. I want to play with Glogster this year too! I need to see if they have teacher/classroom accounts which translates to free of charge 🙂 I am so happy that we are finally going to be working and collaborating together! I need to contact you about my teaching partner and I visiting your classroom too….

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      1. I’m happy to host you and your teaching partner. Just shoot me an email! Or leave me a msg on my class website. theflockjwr.com

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