Student-led book talks can develop oral language skills and increase student motivation to read. Lucy Calkins in her book The Art of Teaching Reading (2007) shared that the books that mean the most to us are the ones we discuss with our friends and peers. Providing time for students to share book talks in the classroom will allow them to have this same experience.
Book talks are brief, enthusiastic oral descriptions of a book that a student has read. They are also given with the intention of encouraging others to read the book. As adults this is something we do naturally, but how do we create the conditions to have our students do this as naturally as we do ourselves?
This very idea is explored in a 2016 article, “Get Them Talking! Using Student-Led Book Talks in the Primary Grades,” by Alida K. Hudson in The Reading Teacher, volume 70 (2).
According to our Atlantic Canada English Language Arts Curriculum Grades K-3, …”children in the early years should be able to express thoughts and describe feelings or experiences, express opinions, and listen to the ideas and opinions of others” p. 24 In addition, “students should be engaging in informal oral presentations” p. 25 …and as well, “regard reading/viewing as sources of interest, enjoyment, and information” p. 27. Alida Hudson’s concise article lays out the steps to creating this possibility within our classrooms.
To begin, it is important to remember that implementation should be done over the course of several weeks with a slow, gradual release of responsibility to the students. Alida Hudson suggests the following process:
Step 1: Model, Model, Model
Search the internet for videos of young students giving book talks and pick ones that are good examples. Share these with students at the beginning of reading time each day for about a week. After the first cuple of days also begin to ask the students to discuss with their neighbor what they noticed about the books talks. Guide them to see that the book talks all idenify the title and author of the book, discuss the main character of the story and the main idea. Also share during this time that adults often share and recommend books to each other that they enjoy. This helps them understand the purpose of the book talks – to get others to read the book!
Step 2: Direct Instruction
After taking the first week to introduce book talks to students, begin providing direct instruction. After reading a book aloud to your class explain how to prepare a book talk and what information is needed. Consider the creation of an anchor chart like the one shown. The chart will provide the scaffold students need to practice the conversation they will be having about their book. As the teacher, you can then model giving a book talk using the anchor chart with a book you read previously. Repeat modeling book talks for several days using the chart.
(“Get Them Talking! Using Student-Led Book Talks in the Primary Grades”, by Alida K. Hudson in The Reading Teacher, volume 70 (2). )
Step 3: Practice Makes Perfect
Once direct instruction is completed have students prepare book talks in small groups using texts that they already know well and on which they have background knowledge. Each student in the group prepares one section of the book talk. Have the groups prepare different book talks over several days ensuring each student has a different role each day. To build independence begin working with students in small groups during reading workshop to develop their own complete book talk.
Step 4: Present
Once some students have their book talks prepared, they take turns presenting. They hold the book with one hand and their written book talk paper in the other to speak. When finished, celebrate, and allow a few questions. Continue meetings with students in small groups to prepare their book talks until all have had their chance to share. Students should now be prepared to move forward on their own preparing future book talks. You may even want to consider one day of the week as the “Book Talk” day.
Step 5: Model, Model, Model and Accommodate as Needed
Throughout the year periodically model book talks and reference the anchor chart. Consider pairing students reluctant to talk with a partner to book talk a text that they have both read. To support EAL students or other learners provide sentence stems and opportunities to practice prior to their turn to speak to the class. Another modification could be to allow a student to share with you verbally their book talk while you transcribe. When it is their turn to present, you could share the book talk for them as the child holds the book. Enrichment opportunities might include book talks to be delivered during an assembly or via the morning announcements or video recordings for other classrooms. Challenge students to consider giving the book talk from the perspective of one of the characters.
Book talks are not limited to any one particular type of reader or text. Simple modifications to the process shared will allow students to book talk nonfiction. Instead of sharing story elements, share the main idea and key facts. Books talks address speaking and listening, reading and viewing, as well as, writing and representing outcomes at all grade levels. In addition, book talks build community in the classroom by allowing students to learn about each other as readers. Student-led book talks are an authentic activity that can be part of any classroom.
To Read the whole article try the ILA search on the International Literacy Association website (if you have a membership) or use the Ebscohost Link .
Hudson, Alida K. (2016) Get Them Talking! Using Student-Led Book Talks in the Primary Grades. The Reading Teacher, 70 (2), 221-225.