Like many teachers I have a couple of students who are reluctant readers; I try to keep them as motivated and engaged as I can using a combination of different approaches that vary from student to student and change over time as needed. I often use strategies such as praise, positive reinforcement (you’ve gotta love Class Dojo), variety of books, audio and visual content, digital books etc.
In general my class this year are now reading well and many of them are advanced readers for their ages; however we just hadn’t quite got the kind of passion and lively discussion that really turns a class into avid readers. Then we did our first book talk. Wow.
The idea is simple, get a bunch of kids to pick a book they like, write about why they like it and a few other points and then turn it into a speech. I invited the parents of my students to attend the event, organised a celebratory lunch and we also recorded their talks to produce a podcast. This week was a scheduled review week in my ELA curriculum so our focus became the book talks. We read, we talked, we wrote and we thought about books all week. Of course, it also gave me a great opportunity to recap and where needed reteach some elements of planning, grammar, sentence construction, comprehension strategies, etc.
It was great to see how much they put into it all; I have one student in particular who is far behind grade level and came to us in September unable to read 3 letter cvc words. She wrote a 153 word book talk with only some spelling support on an Amelia Bedelia book: I would never have expected such a great turn around and it was so heart warming to see. For my advanced kids they really dug into their books using textual evidence to support their claims about the author’s purpose of the books and making connections to other books they had read.
So, here are my tips for holding your own book talk:
- Allow students free choice on book selection
- Go slow. We went through step by step reading, rereading, planning, drafting, editing, redrafting and speaking skills.
- Before they do any writing get them to just talk about their book; to you, a partner, a group – try to build that excitement
- Encourage their creative side – one of my students works best if he can draw alongside his writing. It’s not the format we were working with as a class but what’s more important meeting the learning objective or following the formatting? Easy question, right?
- Involve parents – spread the excitement and double the encouragement
- Review at the end. We did a 3-2-1 review that afternoon. 3 things they did well, 2 things to improve on next time, 1 person they were impressed by (and why). It really helped complete the learning process.
We had a lot of fun and I can see that they learned and practice a lot of important skills, but more importantly they ALL really got into it; want proof? After we finished our book talks we had 20 minutes until lunch, what did my class ask to do with time?