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September 29, 2017

Middle School Book Talks

By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    No, ifs, ands, or buts, I love to read. Books live everywhere in my life — my classroom, my home office, or by the side of my bed — books are everywhere!

    I also love discussing books. Having conversations about books with adults and children helps to keep me informed about what’s new in the literary world. Lately, I am realizing that I am reading more middle school books. I guess it comes with the territory of teaching middle school students. I also share what I have been reading with my students. It is imperative that they see the importance of reading and its purpose in our lives. Reading is not just a requirement for school, it is essential for nurturing successful members of society.

    What has awakened my desire to implement book talks on a regular basis? It could be the arrival of the Book Clubs flyers from Scholastic, which are a great resource to build your classroom library, or maybe even eavesdropping on student conversations about the latest “it” book. I reflected on my past practice to gain insight as to why book talks had a short shelf life in my classroom. I really couldn’t put my finger on any one reason. But this year I am vowing it will be different! Fingers crossed — books talks will stick this year in Room 509!

    I began this school year in my classroom by asking my students to talk about the books that they had read over the summer. I wanted there to be conversations about books. I was surprised that after about a couple of minutes there was this eerie quiet in the room. Could it be that my new crop of students didn’t know how to talk about books? Or could it be summer-itis and my students were not ready for school to start?

    Taking the hint that I needed to model the desired outcome to talk enthusiastically about books, I set the stage. I inquired about favorite authors and then I felt a little spark of excitement. The room slowly began to come alive. The next inquiry was about favorite series. This seemed to increase the level of energy. Finally, when I asked about the genre of fantasy books, you would have thought someone in the room won a million dollars! One thing I have learned over the past few years, sixth grade students love fantasy books! Now this was the momentum that I needed to introduce book talks.

    Book Talk First Steps

    I had to truly commit to maintaining book talks in the classroom. In order to do this, I needed to have protocols in place as a guide to keep me accountable. To start the process of book talks, I created a PowerPoint handbook for the students and myself to refer to. The PowerPoint set the expectations for all of the participants: presenter, audience, and teacher. I modeled for about a week what I expected the book talks to resemble so that my students would be clear on what to do. The entire process from beginning to end took about five minutes.

    I also know that at some point, this will be handed over to the students and they will become responsible for implementing the talks. It is my hope that after modeling the process of book talks, my students will not only take ownership of them, but will find creative and innovative ways to keep them going so that they do not become mundane.

    Book Talk Protocol

    Our book talk follows this format:

    • Designated student distributes book talk voting cards to classmates
    • Presenter prepares to “talk”
    • Timekeeper sets the timer for two minutes
    • Designated audience member uses "presenter expectation" slide as a guide to monitor “talk”
    • Presenter presents
    • Designated audience member provides brief feedback
    • Class votes on book: "Perfect Fit" or "Not My Size" voting cards

     

    Tips for Success

    The Media Specialist at my school offered some words of wisdom that I would like to share. (Thank you Barbara Klinck!) Here are just a few of her tips that have been extremely helpful:

    • Make it an event. Pick a music theme to start the talk. My class selected Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling."
    • Make the classroom environment a place where students would want to share and talk about books.
    • For students who are nervous, review presentation tips with them and allow them to practice. Set them up for success!
    • Talk about the right fit: If the shoe doesn’t fit, you won’t wear it. If the book doesn’t fit, you won’t read it.
    • Be prepared for struggles, for example, students not wanting to volunteer to talk. A solution for this could be to create a book talk calendar where students can either sign up to present or you assign the dates.
    • To cope with struggles over selecting a book to talk about, strategically place books with notes around the room to pique student interest

    I am looking forward to seeing how book talks will evolve during the course of this year. I am certainly hoping that I accomplish my goal of staying the course of daily book talks.

    Pearls of Wisdom — Even though it's the beginning of the school year, think about creating your substitute folder. It will be one less thing that you will have to worry or stress over in case you are absent for the day.

    If you need additional tips on book talks, check out fellow blogger, Alycia Zimmerman's post on "Book Talks, Book Trailers, and Book Teasers!"

    Have you tried book talks in your classroom? Did they work? Please share! I love hearing ideas that make all of our lives easier.

     

    No, ifs, ands, or buts, I love to read. Books live everywhere in my life — my classroom, my home office, or by the side of my bed — books are everywhere!

    I also love discussing books. Having conversations about books with adults and children helps to keep me informed about what’s new in the literary world. Lately, I am realizing that I am reading more middle school books. I guess it comes with the territory of teaching middle school students. I also share what I have been reading with my students. It is imperative that they see the importance of reading and its purpose in our lives. Reading is not just a requirement for school, it is essential for nurturing successful members of society.

    What has awakened my desire to implement book talks on a regular basis? It could be the arrival of the Book Clubs flyers from Scholastic, which are a great resource to build your classroom library, or maybe even eavesdropping on student conversations about the latest “it” book. I reflected on my past practice to gain insight as to why book talks had a short shelf life in my classroom. I really couldn’t put my finger on any one reason. But this year I am vowing it will be different! Fingers crossed — books talks will stick this year in Room 509!

    I began this school year in my classroom by asking my students to talk about the books that they had read over the summer. I wanted there to be conversations about books. I was surprised that after about a couple of minutes there was this eerie quiet in the room. Could it be that my new crop of students didn’t know how to talk about books? Or could it be summer-itis and my students were not ready for school to start?

    Taking the hint that I needed to model the desired outcome to talk enthusiastically about books, I set the stage. I inquired about favorite authors and then I felt a little spark of excitement. The room slowly began to come alive. The next inquiry was about favorite series. This seemed to increase the level of energy. Finally, when I asked about the genre of fantasy books, you would have thought someone in the room won a million dollars! One thing I have learned over the past few years, sixth grade students love fantasy books! Now this was the momentum that I needed to introduce book talks.

    Book Talk First Steps

    I had to truly commit to maintaining book talks in the classroom. In order to do this, I needed to have protocols in place as a guide to keep me accountable. To start the process of book talks, I created a PowerPoint handbook for the students and myself to refer to. The PowerPoint set the expectations for all of the participants: presenter, audience, and teacher. I modeled for about a week what I expected the book talks to resemble so that my students would be clear on what to do. The entire process from beginning to end took about five minutes.

    I also know that at some point, this will be handed over to the students and they will become responsible for implementing the talks. It is my hope that after modeling the process of book talks, my students will not only take ownership of them, but will find creative and innovative ways to keep them going so that they do not become mundane.

    Book Talk Protocol

    Our book talk follows this format:

    • Designated student distributes book talk voting cards to classmates
    • Presenter prepares to “talk”
    • Timekeeper sets the timer for two minutes
    • Designated audience member uses "presenter expectation" slide as a guide to monitor “talk”
    • Presenter presents
    • Designated audience member provides brief feedback
    • Class votes on book: "Perfect Fit" or "Not My Size" voting cards

     

    Tips for Success

    The Media Specialist at my school offered some words of wisdom that I would like to share. (Thank you Barbara Klinck!) Here are just a few of her tips that have been extremely helpful:

    • Make it an event. Pick a music theme to start the talk. My class selected Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling."
    • Make the classroom environment a place where students would want to share and talk about books.
    • For students who are nervous, review presentation tips with them and allow them to practice. Set them up for success!
    • Talk about the right fit: If the shoe doesn’t fit, you won’t wear it. If the book doesn’t fit, you won’t read it.
    • Be prepared for struggles, for example, students not wanting to volunteer to talk. A solution for this could be to create a book talk calendar where students can either sign up to present or you assign the dates.
    • To cope with struggles over selecting a book to talk about, strategically place books with notes around the room to pique student interest

    I am looking forward to seeing how book talks will evolve during the course of this year. I am certainly hoping that I accomplish my goal of staying the course of daily book talks.

    Pearls of Wisdom — Even though it's the beginning of the school year, think about creating your substitute folder. It will be one less thing that you will have to worry or stress over in case you are absent for the day.

    If you need additional tips on book talks, check out fellow blogger, Alycia Zimmerman's post on "Book Talks, Book Trailers, and Book Teasers!"

    Have you tried book talks in your classroom? Did they work? Please share! I love hearing ideas that make all of our lives easier.

     

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Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
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