Book Talks by Katherine Sokolowski
I recently gave my students an end of the quarter survey to see how they felt the year was going. In looking at survey after survey, my seventh graders repeatedly listed our daily book talks as one of their favorite parts of our class. They had positive things to say about finding other kids in class who liked the same books they did, discovering new books to add to their to read list, and the community feel of all of us gathering in the front of the room to begin our day. While I did begin the year with weeks of book talks from me, the students have taken over and manage this routine day to day. Today I asked them to give you some advice from the experts, what makes a great book talk? Here’s what they had to say:
- It’s all in the planning
Ben reminded us of the importance of planning, “I think you have to know what you are going to say when you get up there.” Caleb backed him up saying, “It is helpful (but also time-consuming) to write out what you want to say before hand.” The kids all know the necessary elements of our talks: Share the title, author, genre, short summary, and your own review. But, as you can see below, they have more things to consider beyond that.
- No spoilers please
We all know this one, right? Eliza was adamant, “The worst thing you could do on a book talk is spoil the ending. People won’t want to read the book if you have spoiled it.”
- Eye contact
Tough one, but Jackie was on the money here, “I think what makes a good book talk is eye contact with the people that you are talking to. Because sometimes when people are presenting something to the class or reading something to the class they get nervous. I myself always get nervous and it helps me sound better when I make eye contact with people. If you just look around the room and never actually seem like your talking to someone it looks like your talking to a wall.”
- Short, but sweet
Teya is correct when she said, “You need to tell us lots about it so we get pulled in more, not just thirty seconds of talking.” Katelyn concurs, “If you only take 30 seconds then chances are you didn’t explain it very well, so no one will want to read it.” Book talks don’t need to go on forever. That’s the downfall to not planning at times, kids tend to ramble. That being said, most of my students agree that two to three minutes would be the perfect length.
- Pick the Lonely Ones
My student, Lana, had this to say, “Try not to do a book that the whole world has read, it honestly is a waste of time and no one wants to hear a book talk that everyone already knows about. Book talks are to branch out and discover new books, not to hear about a book everyone has heard and seen before.” We have some books that everyone in our class has read. We try to use book talks to bless the books no one knows about.
- Read a bit of text
Heath agreed with many of his classmates when he shared, “I do like it when people read the first chapter or so.” Teya agreed saying, “Another thing to make a good book talk is reading little parts in the book so we know how it’s written and what the book is like.” This is something I’ve found hooks the majority of my students. You can read the summary from the flap, the back, the lead, or whatever. Then give your own review and watch the waiting lists form.
- Leave them hanging
Dylan had this to say about book talks, “To have a really good book talk you have to have suspense. So it intrigues the listeners of your book talk so they want to read the book.” Jessica agreed, “A great book talk is when you kind of leave a cliffhanger in your blurb about the book.” One of my most popular book talks was after we had already read Jon Scieszka’s Knuckleheads. I held up Gary Paulsen’s How Angel Peterson Got His Name and said, “Knuckleheads on steroids.” Hands flew up to beg for it.
Sophie had a recommendation for her classmates in regard to presentation, “I also think that you need to connect with the people you are talking to. You can’t just have a monotone voice, you need to have expression when you talk about your book. Or if you really want to get your readers into the book you can tell them that there is a twist just don’t tell them what the twist is.”
- Recommending other books
Lizzie is helping classmates really build their to read lists in her book talk recommendation, “I think you should add more books like the book you book talked so that if people liked that book then they know what to read next.” This also applies to series books. My students have a strong opinion that when recommending a series, you must book talk the first book, not the ones that follow. Otherwise spoilers abound.
- Passion for your book
So many students listed this as a top recommendation. Andrew sums it up, “What makes a good book talk is when the person talking about it makes the book sound like a fun book and make people want to read it.” No one wants to read a book that sounds boring, right?
Donalyn Miller talked in her book Reading in the Wild about the need to get our students to see each other as a source of book recommendations and not just come to their teacher. Our daily book talks have taken care of this. Just this week an eighth grader came in during study hall to see me. I had them as a student in fifth grade. She said, “Mrs. S, I need a good book.” Kids jumped out of their seats and I heard one child rushing towards her saying, “Tell me about what you read last.” They have embraced this culture of book lovers in our classroom and book talks have paved the way.
Would you like to read some book talks from this crew? If so, please click over to our Padlet from last week and pick up a reading recommendation or two.
Katherine Sokolowski has taught for twenty years and currently teaches seventh grade in Monticello, Illinois. She is honored to have crafted this post with her new group of seventh graders, many of whom also posted on Nerdy when she taught them in fifth grade. She is passionate about reading both in her classroom and also with her two sons. You can find her online at http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter as @katsok.