Honest Conversations

Hallway Talk:

“ I cannot believe that I said yes…” I shared with a colleague one busy October morning as we walked our students back to our classrooms after art and music. I explained to my friend about an upcoming presentation I agreed to do at our neighboring middle school.  

“Do you think middle school teachers could really use any ideas I have to share?  I think saying yes to hosting this presentation was a mistake…” I added with a jittery feeling of dread.

“Well you’re not sounding very confident…” came a bubbly voice a few steps behind me.  I pivoted to see the smiling face of Gabby, a charismatic and outgoing student and the source of the unexpected comment.

“Do you want to talk about this with us?” she said with her dark eyes shining while beaming a most genuine smile.  

Surprised was an understatement describing my immediate reaction to Gabby’s question.  I was not expecting a child to hear, let alone listen and then process my worries. Unexpectedly, Gabby reacted and reached out to offer caring support.  Moving past the idea of looking under-confident to a child, I was intrigued by the possibilities of this learning opportunity.  What would students say when their teacher revealed her nervousness about an upcoming presentation at another school?

“We always talk about characters and the conflicts they face in their stories.  This time we could problem-solve with you and figure out this inside problem.” chirped Gabby, scurrying to walk beside me so we could chat.

Wait…what….???  My eyes must have widened-so Gabby continued her chatter.

“In class we always talk about characters having conflicts that happen on the outside in their world and also the struggles they have on the inside with their feelings.  Well… I can tell you are worried…your eyebrows have that crunched together look and your voice doesn’t have the usual pep.” replied Gabby.  

The life of a teacher is filled with the necessity of being flexible and accepting the spontaneous needs of children.  Ordinarily, I was accustomed to being the one supplying advice or helping students to craft solutions.  Taking a risk and accepting advice were two choices I often encouraged my students to  consider.  What would happen if I showed my students the power of reflection and the acceptance of help?  What did I have to lose?  More importantly, what did my students have to gain?

 

Unexpected Conversations

“Gabby is going to lead a discussion…” I announced to my students as we settled into our classroom’s community area.

“So you can make an oval to chat.”  directed Gabby, finishing my sentence.  Once she had the team’s full attention, she explained why we were gathered and shared her thoughts on the conversation she overheard.

“And I wasn’t really eavesdropping…” she added. “Mrs. Smith was talking about a presentation, which is just like a lesson with us, so I figured it wasn’t a private topic.  I think she would pick a better place to talk about private topics than the hallway.”

(Note to self-always assume someone is listening to you in the hallway.)

“So it seems that Mrs. Smith is worried about talking to a group of teachers for a presentation.” Gabby stated with a serious and confident voice. “I think she needs a conference.  Who would like to start?”

“What are you going to talk about with the teachers?” asked Michael.

I explained how my talk would focus on conferences with students during Reading Workshop.  I would describe how we talk about books and students’ reading lives. I was greeted with smiles and lots of nodding heads.

“Is that all?” asked Steele.

I continued, explaining how I would also show the way we use Google Forms to collect information about readers and then how we use the information to keep growing as readers.

“Why are you worried about sharing?”  added Steele after hearing the additional information.  

I was intrigued by the comfortable conversation hosted by students; their questions peeled away the layers to reveal my question:  Were my worries stemming from my teaching practices or the perceptions of my middle school colleagues?

 

Honest Revelations

“I don’t know my audience very well…so I am wondering if the information I share will matter to them and their teaching.”  I confessed.

“I felt that way when I had my first reading conference with you.  I figured you had already read the book, so what else could I say about it?” answered Tony.

“Yeah…me too.  But you let us talk.” added Sheri.  “You wanted to know what we thought about our books.  Isn’t that what you are going to do?  Share what you think about reading conferences?  So really this presentation is just like a conference.  Instead of one teacher listening, you will just have a bunch of teachers listening…Don’t you think the other teachers want to hear what you have to say?  You always want to know our thinking in a conference.”

“I never thought about it that way before.” I answered.  This conversation was more than a pep-talk.  I was learning about my own classroom community and the bonds created through reading conferences and conversations.

“Are you going to tell those teachers about the Google Forms because they help us?  Are you going to explain how the conference forms lets us feel confident and helps us tell you more about the books we’re reading?” asked Maria.

“The form helps you to feel more confident?” I asked, rather surprised by this news.

“Well of course…when you started conferences at the beginning of the year, you kept the form on the SmartBoard for everyone to see- even if we weren’t having a conference.  We saw and heard what you were doing in a conference. Then we knew what to expect when it was our turn to talk with you.”  Maria added, looking surprised that I had to ask that question.

“Letting us see the form on your laptop during conferences really helps too.   You also have our Book Partner charts nearby to help us with possible topics for our conference talks.  All of this stuff made our conferences easier… and then conferences became fun.  Didn’t you know that?” responded Emma with kind disbelief.  

“So about this talk.  I’m really confused.  Are you worrying about the talking or about whether or not people will listen?”  Gabby finally asked.  

Wow.  In one kind but direct sentence, Gabby summarized my worries.  The wisdom of children means you need to be ready to wrestle with some hard truths.  It never dawned on me that it wasn’t the talking that had me worried, but would my audience care enough to listen.  This short “conference” helped me focus on empowering ideas and now I could conquer my concerns as a presenter before a new audience.

 

Lessons Learned

A 10 minute conversation with my students accomplished more than easing my worries about a professional presentation.  Our talk confirmed my beliefs about class conversations and the confidence gained from a powerful literacy environment.  My students reaffirmed how meaningful conversations build the foundation of a supportive classroom community.  This confessional conference reminded me of the following truths:

Be a listener.  

Let students talk so you can discover their perceptions of selected classroom practices, routines, and rituals. By slowing down and letting a child lead the conversation, who knew I could receive reflective and powerful feedback from my students?  By publicizing my worries about an upcoming presentation, I actually discovered how important reading conferences were to my students.  In turn, my students realized that their observations and advice helped me feel more confident; their words helped me realize the necessity of being brave so I could share my ideas with others. Empowerment can be a shared experience.

 

Be vulnerable.  

We all have our worries and baggage that we try to compartmentalize and hide away when we live and work in our communities.  Decide when sharing your concerns and looking vulnerable is worthwhile so you can hear truthful comments from those around you.  Be open to the messages of your colleagues, your school families, and from children.  My unexpected confession to students reinforced the idea that we need one another.  Sometimes we need support.  At times we need to celebrate.  Each of us needs someone to listen.  We all need caring people in our lives to grow.  When students understand they play a role in creating a supportive community, we encourage children to be invested in themselves and in others.

 

Be appreciative.

When our short ten minute conversation came to a close, I was compelled to share my gratitude.  I made sure my students understood that I valued their advice.  I commended their empathy, thanked them for listening and congratulated them on supporting me even when they didn’t quite understand my concerns.  Their ideas shed new light on the powerful possibilities of Reading Workshop conferences. I thanked them for the way they focused on positive elements and solutions, helping me to find my purpose, and in the end my confidence.  I let them know that instead of making me feel silly for speaking my worries, I felt stronger for sharing the truth.

 
Confidence In Our Communities

No matter where you teach, our classrooms hold the potential power of a supportive community.  When we listen to the honest conversations of our students, their words and perspectives reveal perceived roles in our carefully designed community.   How do students value classroom practices, routines, and rituals?  Do students see themselves as contributing members with ideas to share?  Are they confident enough to offer advice?  Do students care about one another, including their teacher?  

As educators, we know our roles as leaders, mentors and guides.  Do our students understand their roles in classrooms?  We need our students’ perspectives and ideas to create thriving communities.  When Gabby asked me:

“Do you want to talk about this with us?”

I never anticipated the empowering feedback I could receive from children.  I learned that our team gatherings and individual conferences were more than instructional practices.  Our classroom communities can be the places we find our people, our voice, and the confidence to speak.  Our communities can help to discover the power of us.

Connections

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One morning in early September, my quiet student Alicia asked me an unexpected question as we wrapped up a reading conference.

“Why do you love teaching so much?” she asked.

Without thinking, I answered, “Because it reminds me so much of my family when I was growing up.”

“You should tell us more about that someday…” she said gazing around the room smiling at her classmates. “I think they would like to know too.”

For me, family and teaching share the power of connections.  At home and in the classroom, shared common bonds create dynamic and powerful forces.  I am a fortunate person because my childhood connections allowed me to thrive.  Whether it was for support, reflection, or celebration, those connections were a reassuring constancy in my life.  The world outside our home always seemed to be full of changing people and experiences, but the dependable connections of home and family guided me through childhood with confidence.  

In my world, family was the insurance plan reminding us that no matter what happened, we always had one another. Our lives were so interconnected.  Birthdays. New babies. Baptisms. Funerals. Report Cards. Graduations. Illness.  Anniversaries. Accomplishments.  Holidays.  Vivid memories are those of Sunday dinners. Sundays meant we were together because that was the only day nobody went to work.  From the energy of a colorful dinner table, to the interesting people, and the lively conversations,  my family and relatives would move together to quieter afternoons after our meal.  Sitting near my father and grandfather with the Yankees game playing on the television gave us time to talk while giving them time to rest after a busy week.  I remember waiting on the couch to have 1:1 time with my grandmother as she listened to each grandchild read a book aloud just for her; meanwhile the mothers cleaned up Sunday dinner and then took time to chat and laugh on the front stoop of the house.

Our lives were shaped, strengthened and made richer because we were together.  Those connections reassured each one of us that we mattered and we belonged.  

The constant reassurance of family was the priceless gift of my childhood;  my life out in the world from a young age also taught me that not  every child grew up with a supportive family network like mine.  Years later when I entered the world as a teacher, I wanted to show gratitude for my family by building a supportive and connected community for students.  

As a new teacher, I knew that regardless of their lives and experiences outside of school, my students deserved to be more than a roster of names. They deserved a caring and connected school community.  After 30 years, I still believe our first job as teachers is to provide consistent and persistent opportunities for students to know they matter and they belong.  I still believe that teachers can build relationships with simple, but powerful practices that are worthy of being repeated, noticed, and celebrated.  And just like my family, I found that classrooms can capitalize on quiet, yet powerful connections that provide long-lasting and far reaching benefits for students.  

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Arrival Time:  A Chance for a Reflective Connections

My mother taught me to be practical, yet reflective.  She always told us, “How you start the day, determines the rest of the day.”  As a teacher, I know that getting to school isn’t always easy for kids.  The crazy bus ride, noisy hallway traffic, and breakfast line frustrations can be hard to leave at the door.  Just as my own mother created calm, reassuring starts to my childhood days, I have tried to pay her kindness forward to my students.  

Our first school connection of the day is Arrival.  My students are encouraged to enter the building, get their breakfasts if needed, and head to our classroom as quickly as possible so they can begin to leave the noise and the hurry of getting to school behind.  Once students enter our door, the mood shifts.   I play soft music and children find me in our quiet community area rather than standing in the doorway competing with hallway noise .  They find me waiting to greet each person entering the room.  Each child comes over to say good morning so I can look each one in the eyes to discover what kind of energy he or she is bringing to school that day. As we say our good mornings,  I check them in for attendance and lunch count.  

Good morning check-ins really mean that each child starts the day hearing his or her name with kind words.  Just like the family breakfast table where my mother started our day with a hug and a strong gaze into our eyes with some encouraging words, I know how much arrivals and beginnings matter.  The first connection of the day with students is one of reflection: the hugs, the smiles, the high-fives, the chatting, or the gift of a quiet.  How can we start this day in the best possible way? Arrival time may only last a few minutes, but this time presents a reflective connection each child needs every morning: a quiet time to know and understand that he or she matters and belongs in our classroom.

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Independent Reading: A Time For Supportive Connections

The second ritual of the day in our classroom is Independent Reading.  This peaceful time in our classroom reminds me of the supportive flow my mother created for our evenings as a family. As we finished our busy day and a conversation-filled dinner, my siblings and I wrapped up kitchen chores and transitioned one by one to homework.  My mother was a believer in letting us do our own homework, but she felt we needed to be together in the kitchen with focused and purposeful intentions.  As we finished our work, we packed up and prepared our school bags for the next day. Then we drifted into the living room to read our own books while my father read the newspaper.  This same peaceful, predictable flow continued and we read until it was our turn to have a bath or shower.  Looking back, the easy predictability of our evenings and being together combined with the collective spirit of reading was a peaceful way to end our day.

I provide that same peaceful transition for students at the start of the day instead.  As children arrive, the transition from “getting here” to “being here,” is supported by the joy of books.  Morning arrivals are staggered with bus schedules, long breakfast lines, and the flow of 25 children arriving through a doorway.  Teaching right away would be impossible since school-wide announcements and the pledge will burst from the loudspeaker at 9:15.  If “being here” means getting ready for a day of learning, then the joy of books seems like a perfect bridge.  Children arrive and settle in around the room.  Some children read in our comfortable chairs.  Some readers find quiet spaces in our Book Nooks.  Breakfasts are eaten with books in hand at our tables.  Readers are sharing latest favorites.   With each passing minute, you can feel the calm descending, bodies relaxing and minds engaging with the joyful act of reading.  The supportive connection of books and reading and sharing makes all the difference to our mornings.

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Reading Conferences:  Another Time for Supportive Connections

When you are a member of a family with brothers and sisters, you treasure the time you get to spend all by yourself with a parent.  I can remember riding with my father in his truck, headed to the dump to get rid of construction debris just to have uninterrupted time with him.  We took turns talking or listening; we asked questions and shared opinions.  What mattered to me was that I did not need to compete with anyone else.   I always appreciated how my father made sure to have one-on-one time with us whenever he could, even if it was a simple truck-ride to complete an errand.  My father taught me to show someone you care, you start by being an active, attentive listener.  

Over the years, my father’s wisdom has guided my conference-life with students.  During those first days of school when I slowly introduce students to the components and expectations of workshop, they all nod their heads in shared understanding when I connect reading conferences to that 1:1 time with a parent.  Students thrive in groups, but they also crave special attention from a caring adult.  Family life teaches us that.  As much as I loved my family, I took advantage of those “only child”  opportunities to have my father’s complete attention.  Students understand my story.  As soon as students show me that they can manage on their own during independent reading, I launch our one-on-one reading conferences.  Students know that each one of them will have that coveted, uninterrupted alone time with me to talk about new books, funny characters, exciting plots, or what to read next. Conferences are a time to build those supportive connections that help each child feel valued and heard.  

Book Partners and Book Talks:  Taking Time for Group Celebrations  

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My mother took my siblings and I to the library often.  Since I was the oldest, I was expected to help the younger ones find books that were fun, right for their age, and matched their interests.  I remember how easy it was to help my brother because he wanted to read everything he could about baseball; he was an easy customer.  I parked him by sports  in the library’s 700s section and he carefully explored, book by book, looking for new baseball titles. Then he would wander to the the biographies and search for books about his baseball heroes.  My sister was another story.  She wanted to read every book I was currently reading; being three years younger than me, I  knew she would lose interest in her copycat books as soon as we lugged them home.  Then I would be stuck listening to her fuss plus I would find myself explaining  to my mother why my sister was complaining about her bag full of books and nothing to read.  I had to be a great saleswoman to convince my sister to value my book recommendations that were just right for her.  In hindsight, my sister provided the best preservice PD on matching books to readers.

As a teacher, I learned to value Book Partners and Student-Lead Book Talks early in my career.  In the beginning, I tried to read every title that I believed my students might enjoy; with the ever-expanding reading lives of students, it was a challenge to be a child’s only source of book recommendations.  Just like my mother relied on me to help my siblings select books, I now rely on Book Partners to add variety to the sharing element of Reading Workshop.   After students learn how to have book conversations, I match pairs of readers to informally chat about books.  Reading Partners meet at least twice a week and talk about what they are reading.  I love listening to the excited book conversations at the end of workshop.  Why were certain books selected?  Why were certain titles obvious favorites?  Who was confident when talking about books?  Who might need some different supports in order to grow as a speaker and listener during Partner Book Talks?

Student-Lead Book Talks also give students a chance to share and celebrate their book recommendations just like sharing news and having conversations at the dinner table.  Students learn to take turns, listen without interrupting, and ask questions when their peer is finished talking about a book. It is important for students to slow down and watch their friends present a book.  They learn to be supportive of their shy friends.  They discover that people beyond their friendship circle could help them grow.  Just like conversations at the dinner table, connections between students grow stronger when they take time to see each individual’s perspective.  

The Power We Hold

Being a teacher allows me to provide so much more than instruction for my students.   Our classroom presents multiple opportunities to grow and enrich a community through connections, moments of support, joy, and celebrations.  Just like the rituals of family, it is possible for a classroom to provide many rituals that can nurture students social, emotional and cognitive growth wrapped in the joy of learning.  Each day as I gather with children in my classroom, I smile with gratitude for the opportunity to share my family’s gift:  the power of support, reflection, and celebration.  Many times I have gazed across my classroom and felt the support of my family like warm hands resting on my shoulders.  They helped me achieve this teaching life that I love.   How fortunate I am.

What Are Your Superpowers?

“I have 5 younger brothers and sisters.  My superpower is that I am really good at helping somebody feel better because at my house, someone is always needing something like a band aid or a hug.”

“My superpower is that I am good at showing others how to use technology.  I think computer might be my second language.”

“I am really organized.  My superpower is helping to clean things up and make them look nice.  Our team’s supply tub looks really good because of me.”

“I’m really good at helping new kids make friends.  Everybody needs at least one friend.  I’m good at helping others be together at recess or lunch.”

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We are good at book recommendations.

“I can help at Chapman Elementary because I speak two languages.  I know that you cannot speak or read Arabic, Mrs. Smith…so I can help you with students or their parents.”

“After my mom died, I learned to be a good listener.  At my house, my brothers and sisters, but especially my dad needed quiet time to think about things after my mom died.  When someone at my house needs to talk, it’s important we pay attention.  My superpower is listening because sometimes a good listener is what someone needs to feel better.”

“My superpower is music.  I love playing piano for others…it makes me happy to see people smile and sit while they listen to me play.”

These are some of the quotes lifted from recent interviews with my students.  Sifting through my notes the other evening, I smiled, I cried, I laughed, and finally breathed a sigh of relief.  There is hope for our world when we uncover the strengths students carry in their hearts and spirits.  I am renewed with determination every time I think about the amazing children surrounding me each day in our classroom.  These kids are my heroes and heroines, making my community better one day at a time with their superpowers.

Before I start focusing on last year’s test scores and this year’s baseline assessments, I need to acquaint myself with the superheroes residing in my classroom.  In a world challenged by so many issues, I gain priceless information when I take time to discover the many gifts and talents my students bring to our classroom community.  In today’s world, we don’t need someone who can lift a boulder, but we do need someone who lifts the spirits of others.  Our community doesn’t need someone who can out-battle enemy storm troopers in another galaxy, but we do need someone who can unify a group with friendship and respect.  We need skilled listeners and bilingual community members that respect the voice and perspectives of our diverse community.

This is why we need to know our children.

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Our superpowers:  Helping someone who is sad or lonely feel better.  

We notice other people.

I start the year sharing an Ignite-style collection of images that capture what I believe to be my “superpowers.”  I share a few slides each day with a short explanation of my strengths.  With each slide, I talk about my perceived talents that I bring to my school and home community.

I show a picture of a bookshelf in my classroom.  My superpower is that I can help kids find captivating books. I turn kids into literacy ambassadors determined to turn the world into a community of readers.

I show a picture of a beautiful meal, my favorite recipe to prepare for my family.  My superpower is that I know the healing power of healthy food and the value of sitting down at the dinner table together.  I want all of my students to always have breakfast and lunch, so I let them know, “If you are worried about groceries, come and see me so we can work this out.”  I want to make sure that families have information and access to nutrition programs as needed.

I show a picture of me trying to do Crow Pose, a tricky yoga balance.  My superpower is NOT that I am great at yoga or any sport for that matter.  However, I am brave enough to try something hard, something that challenges me.  I want to be reminded of the challenges and frustrations students face as learners.   My goal is not to be perfect.  My goal is to keep trying, to keep going after something that is difficult.  When I keep trying, I am proud.  When I tip over, I laugh, but roll up and try again.  I am a super-heroine because I am determined to get better.

After a few days of my personal stories and being together in our classroom, students start to feel comfortable enough to chat with me about themselves.  During a mini-lesson, I explain how readers and writers rely on understanding the strengths of characters to help them understand and explain their stories. Since a classroom is a living story, we need to know one another.  As I’ve revealed what I believe to be my own superhero talents, I now want to know what makes my students special or unique.

Rather than put children on the spot, I meet with informal groups.  Using a simple question, I launch a conversation and record the comments of children.  

What are some of your super powers?

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We can speak two languages.  Can you?

As we talk, children are inspired to think about their talents in new ways.  With guidance, my soccer players move past their skill sets and number of goals scored to consider they are cooperative leaders who know how to work together with teammates.  I discover the budding mechanics who like fixing things; then I know who will be tending our pencil sharpener throughout the year.  Students who excel at caring for siblings often become the caregivers not only to classmates in need, but our classroom plants and pets.  Children who view themselves as active and fun become a go-to person for shy kids looking for a playmate at recess.

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We like taking care of the lunch boxes each day.

As each group talks with me, the others in the room are thankfully eavesdropping on the conversation.  As discussions unfold, things that matter to children are presented.  

“I’m really good at untangling knots in shoelaces.”

“I’m an expert at redoing ponytails and braids because I do all of my sisters’ hair at home in the morning to help my mom get us ready for school.”

“I love to listen to someone who is sad and help them figure out a solution to the problem.  My sister fusses a bunch at home, so I’m good at stopping the whining.”

As I take notes, we build a web of our class’ superpowers.  

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As kids see our growing visual display of superpower categories, they often add their names to the evolving lists.  Using small photos of the kids, I add their pictures to the names listed with our “superpowers” so our community can see and recognizes the strengths and expertise of others in the classroom.  Our superpowers web becomes a community bulletin board, used like Angie’s List, a resource used by adults to find goods and services around the community.  Your shoelaces somehow got tangled?  Go and see Ali.  You need someone to help you with editing your story?  Go and find Omar.  If you are not feeling well and Mrs. Smith is sending you to the nurse, ask Remaz to walk you down because she is good at helping others feel better.  

One way to create a strong, close-knit community is to build the confidence and awareness of its members.  If a child feels valued for the strengths or life-skills he or she brings to the classroom, that same child will be more willing to be a risk-taker as learning opportunities unfold during the school year.  When children feel valued by classmates, connections are established and a supportive community thrives.  Every student, no matter his story or her challenges, has something to contribute.  It is up to us as leaders in our learning communities to take the time to discover and celebrate those superheroes and super-heroines amongst us.  We need them.  In this sometimes crazy world, we need one another.

 

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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