Three strategies that get students sharing favorite books with their classmates, strengthening the reading community in your classroom
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students will be given many ways to share their favorite books with their classmates, from an interactive book recommendation board to a peer-to-peer recommendation station and book commercials. All activities are intended to strengthen the reading community in your classroom.
- Evaluate and reflect upon the books that they are reading
- Recommend favorite books to other readers in the class
- Write and present commercials to "sell" their favorite books to the class
- Participate in a community of readers who regularly discuss and evaluate literature
- Use writing to persuade fellow readers to choose specific books for independent reading
- Use public speaking to persuade fellow readers to choose specific books for independent reading
- Chart paper and marker
- Pre-selected books that you have read aloud to your class to use as models
- Book Recommendation Cards (PDF)
- Reasons to Recommend a Book (PDF)
- How to Advertise a Good Book (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- Designate a place in your classroom to create a Book Recommendation Board. (Part 1)
- Label library card pockets or pockets on a pocket chart with students' names. (Part 2)
- Print Book Recommendation Cards (PDF) on colored card stock or colored paper. (Part 1)
- Make copies of How to Advertise a Good Book (PDF) and Reasons to Recommend a Good Book (PDF) for every student. (See Part 3)
There are many ways to create a reading community in your classroom. Below are four ideas for building student excitement about reading and for encouraging students to become truly invested in the community of readers in your classroom.
Part 1: Creating an Interactive Book Recommendation Board
Step 1: Ask students how they decide the next book they will read during independent reading time. Make a list of student responses. Hopefully, someone will say that they choose to read books that other students or teachers recommend to them.
Step 2: Explain to students that sharing favorite books and tastes in literature is an important part of a reading community. When there are so many books to choose from in the classroom library, it is sometimes best to ask other students, teachers, or librarians for ideas about which books they think are worth reading.
Step 3: Direct students' attention to the area in the classroom where you have created a Book Recommendation Board. (It is best if the recommendation board is located close to the classroom library so that students can refer to it as they are choosing new books to read.) Explain to students that they will now be able to recommend their favorite books to their classmates by filling out recommendation cards and posting them on the board.
Step 4: Model for students how to fill out a Book Recommendation Card. Choose a book that has been a favorite read-aloud and complete a recommendation card in front of the class so that students become familiar with how to fill out the cards. Add your completed card to the Book Recommendation Board. (You may want to do a card each day for a few days so that students really understand the procedure. I complete the card using a projection camera (or overhead projector) so that all students can see what I am doing.)
Step 5: As a class, create a list of "Reasons to Recommend a Book." Emphasize to the class that not every book a student reads should be added to the board. Students must carefully select the books they choose to add. Creating a list of "Reasons to Recommend a Book" will help students to determine what makes a book worthy of a recommendation. Type up the list and post it near the Book Recommendation Board. See an example: Reasons to Recommend a Book (PDF).
Step 6: Create a special basket labeled "Student Recommended Books," and place it near the Book Recommendation Board so that recommended books can be easily located by other readers. When students add a recommendation to the board, they should place the recommended book in the special basket.
Step 7: Create a "Classroom Library Waiting List" for recommended books that become popular commodities. With only one copy of the recommended books in circulation, you are likely to find that students will want to read the same books. (This is great because this is evidence that the excitement for reading is building in your reading community!) Show students how to add their name and book title to the waiting list. Before students return books to the classroom library, they should now check the Classroom Library Waiting List to see if any other students want to read the book.
|A student adds her book recommendation to the board.|
Part 2: Peer-to-Peer Recommendations
Step 1: Once students are comfortable using the Book Recommendation Board, you can introduce a more specific way of recommending books to a particular student in the class called "Peer-to-Peer Recommendations."
Step 2: Explain to students that as they get to know each other's interests in literature, they will find that they might want to recommend a book not to the whole class but to one person who they really think would be interested in a particular book. (I find it useful to bring a book from home that I am planning to read that was recommended to me by a friend. I tell students that my friend knew I was going to Hawaii, so she gave me a book all about the Hawaiian Islands.)
Step 3: Create in your classroom a Peer-to-Peer Recommendation Station. (I use library card pockets labeled with students' names. I put business card magnets on the back and attach them to a magnetic wall in my classroom. The library pockets are the right size to hold the Peer Recommendation Cards (which are simply Book Recommendation Cards addressed to a particular student). You can also use a pocket chart and label a pocket for each reader in your classroom. Students can then add the Peer Recommendation Cards to other students' pockets.)
Step 4: To use Book Recommendation Cards to recommend a book to a particular classmate, have students write in, at the beginning of their recommendation comments, the name of the classmate they have in mind. This can be written like "Josh, I thought you might like this book because. . . " From there, the cards are filled out just like the cards used for the Book Recommendation Board, so students should have no problem filling out the cards and placing them in other students' library pockets.
|Students use the Peer-Recommendation Station to suggest good books to their classmates.|
Part 3: Book Commercials
Step 1: Lead a discussion about what makes students want certain toys or games. Focus specifically on the answers that refer to advertisements like "pictures in magazines" or "commercials on TV."
Step 2: Explain to students that they will be "selling" books to their classmates by giving persuasive book talks that will be called "Book Commercials."
Step 3: As a class, create a list of things that advertisers do to make commercials persuade customers to buy the product they are selling. (Focusing specifically on toy commercials might make this easier.)
Step 4: Use the list to discuss how the persuasive techniques can be applied to book commercials.
- Kids in the toy commercials look like they are having fun. This means you should also be excited about the book when you present it to the class.
- The toys are in good shape, and the camera usually zooms in on the toy during the commercial. When you advertise the book, be sure to show the cover and any special pictures that will add to the book's desirability.
- Toy commercials usually give facts or information about the toy. When advertising your book, be sure to include facts like the author, genre, plot, characters, etc.
Step 5: Pass out a copy of the How to Advertise a Good Book worksheet to every student in the class. They should add this to their Reader's Notebook or reading folder. Read through the tips together so that students know what makes an effective book commercial.
Step 6: Choose a book that you have previously read aloud to your class to model your own book commercial for your students. Have students use the How to Advertise a Good Book worksheet to evaluate your commercial.
|A student presents his book to the class during his book commercial.|
Step 7: Continue doing commercials for your students for a full week. Follow up each book commercial with a class discussion of the students' evaluation of your commercial. Make sure that you do not always present "perfect" commercials so that students can use the How to Advertise a Good Book tip sheet to help you improve your commercials each day.
Step 8: Once you think your students are ready to give book commercials themselves, create a Book Commercial Sign up Sheet for students who are interested. Be sure to check that students have planned out their commercials before presenting them to the class. I also always provide private, individual feedback to students after they present their commercial to the class.
Step 9: You may choose to make commercials a mandatory part of your reading curriculum by assigning students a certain number that they have to do each month, or you can simply keep it as a voluntary activity. Remember, the goal is to increase excitement and buzz about books in your reading community, so be careful to not turn it into something that is dreaded or that becomes mundane. I only do book commercials once or twice a week at the beginning of my Reading Workshop.
Supporting All Learners
While some students will have no problem making book recommendations and recommending books to their peers, other students may require more teacher help. I take time during individual reading conferences to help students fill out recommendation cards if I can tell that they really enjoyed a book that they have read. I will also allow students who have read books with me in guided reading groups to sign up in pairs to present book commercials to their classmates. This adds extra support for struggling readers or students who are less comfortable speaking in front of their peers.
- You may choose to create a bulletin board with color copies of the book covers that have been advertised to remind students which books have been featured in commercials each month.
- You may also choose to spice up the commercials by having students work in small groups or partnerships to create more elaborate commercials that can videotaped and played at an open house or reading celebration.
I make an effort to include weekly updates about books that have been advertised in class in my newsletter that goes home to parents. Students also have extra Book Recommendation Cards in their Bag o' Books that goes home every night so they can also recommend books that they read and discuss at home with their parents. I also encourage students to write and prepare for the commercials at home so that they can practice in front of their parents before presenting to the class.
All students are expected to recommend books on a monthly basis, and all students are encouraged to give book commercials to the class. I encourage students to write and prepare for the commercials at home so that they can practice in front of their parents before presenting to the class.
- Are students able to fill out Book Recommendation Cards with minimal teacher help?
- Are students using the Book Recommendation Board to guide their book choices?
- Do I need to provide extra support for students who are choosing not to recommend books?
- Are there some students who never receive peer recommendations? If so, what can I do to change this?
- Are students' book commercials creating excitement and buzz about books in the classroom?
- Are the activities in this lesson strengthening my reading community?
The assessment for the book recommendation board and the peer recommendations is informal. I pay close attention to which students are taking an active role in the recommendation process, and I encourage students who are not recommending books to add recommendations to the board.
Assessment for book commercials involves both written and oral feedback given to the student immediately following their commercial. I use the How to Advertise a Good Book tip sheet as a rubric.