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Book Talks Advertise Great Reads

Apr 11, 2008
Once a month I invite students to choose a book they read and present a short, 2 to 3 minute book talk. From the start of the school year, it's helpful for you to model the book talking process by giving short talks on new additions to your classroom library or on favorite books, magazines, or graphic novels you want to spotlight. When a students says that a book was the "best" or "I couldn't put it down" or "I thought about it all day," they become topnotch salespersons for a favorite book. Students' recommendations inspire their peers to check out an author, a topic, or a specific title. That's why book talks are great advertisements for reading; they can also serve as assessments.

What follows are guidelines that discourage students from retelling their book's plot, giving away the ending, or explaining all of the information they learned.

First: Give students time to prepare, offer students book talk guidelines (see samples below) two to four days before books talks take place.

Second: Have students use the book talk guidelines to prepare notes on an index card because notes help students think about the points they plan to make.

Third: Have students limit their book talks to 2 to 3 minutes. Following the guidelines and preparing for and rehearsing books talks help s students meet this guideline.

Fourth: Ask students to speak slowly and clearly, and make eye contact with the audience.

Next, have students create listening standards for the audience. Here are standards a sixth grade class created:

Be a good listener.

Save your questions for the end of the book talk.

Avoid laughing, making faces, reading, doodling, or giggling. Such behaviors can make the book talker uncomfortable and lost concentrations.

There will be time for one to two questions for each book talk.

When I listen to book talks, I jot down notes on a 3-by-5-inch sticky note or in a composition book, to address how well the students are following the guidelines in the book talk. If you want to assign a grade, here's the criteria I use: allot 60 to 65 percent for content and 35 to 40 percent for presentation.

Here are guidelines for three Book Talks, You'll find more in Differentiating Reading Instruction and Teaching Reading: A Complete Resource For Grades four and Up.

Book Talk: Think About the Issue
State the title and author.
Explain the issue in your book.
Explain two things your book taught you about this issue.
Discuss whether this book changed your opinion about this issue, and explain how.

Book Talk: Shivery Suspense
State the title, author, and genre.
Read two examples of suspense from the book and explain why you felt each one was suspenseful.
Would you recommend this book to others? Explain.

Book Talk: Realistic Fiction
State the title and author
Identify three elements, such as setting, problems, or conflicts, and explain how each one is realistic.

Choose an event or character with which you connected and explain the connection.

These book talk guidelines encourage students to reflect on a specific element and showcase their understanding. You and your students can design book talks for other genres, for highlighting character, topic, or theme. I recommend that you have students present their books talks over two class periods. You'll find the "audience" listens better, and you'll also be able to complete other work with your students.
About the Author
Differentiating Reading Instruction: How to Teach Reading to Meet the Needs of Each Student, reflects and offers ways to deal with the fact that middle school classes include students reading at a diverse range of instructional levels. To learn more about Robb's books, classroom libraries, recommendations, teaching and parent tips, and more, visit Laura Robb.
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