Children Selling Books to Each Other
How do most of us choose books to read? Do we Google book recommendations? Not anyone I know. Maybe we go to Barnes and Noble and browse through books or look for our favorite authors. But the most compelling reason to choose a book is a friend saying, “You’ve got to read this!” In my first grade classroom, I combine teaching the students reading comprehension, persuasive writing and powerful speaking by using book talks. It is modeled after the ending part of the Reading Rainbow television show.
This is how it looks in my classroom:
Read Aloud a Favorite Book Several Times
Children need to be read a book several times in order to accomplish this goal. A good book to start with is Gorgonzola, A Very Stinkysaurus, a story about a dinosaur who didn't know how to bathe and was very smelly. A bird takes pity, teaching Gorgonzola personal hygiene, and thus he becomes the first ex-stink dinosaur. The first time, just read to enjoy the story.
Discuss Elements of the Story
The next time I read the book aloud, we discuss the setting and how that affects the story; the characters and how they interact; and plot, how the author builds suspense. In the case of Gorgonzola, we talk about dinosaurs living a long time ago, where they lived and the obvious fact that this is a fantasy story as dinosaurs didn't talk. We talk about how we are feeling sorry for Gorgonzola.
Analyze the Book: How is it Written and Who is it For
The third time I read a story aloud, our class discusses the intended audience of the story and what the author has done to make the story good. (An interesting aspect of first grade is that I have never encountered a student who thought a book I read aloud was not great.) We examine the word choice, the font, the illustrations or photos.
Gorgonzola is a great choice for this aspect because the author has used different font sizes, we talk about extinct versus ex-stink.Then our class discussion moves to whether they think their friends in other classes may like this book. Their answer has to be backed up with an analysis of why their friend may or may not enjoy the story, which requires the students to utilize critical thinking skills.
Model Writing/ Shared Writing
Using the Active Board, we write a summary of the story including a recommendation as our conclusion. While we are shared writing, we discuss using persuasion to encourage our friends to read the book by addressing what we believe will appeal to them, again incorporating higher-level thinking skills.
I repeat this process several times, gradually relinquishing control and giving it to the students. With each repetition, the discussions are more directed by students, and they contribute much more of the writing.
Introduce the Power of Video
To show the students the power of video, I make a video of one of our collaborative Book Talks. I read the Book Talk and then show the video of the same Book Talk. It works, they are convinced.
Depending on their reading level, students either read on their own, read with a family member or have an older student read with them. They can choose to work with a partner. I have an outline (book talk outline.pdf) that we use to help gather information that they will use. They write Just One or Two pieces of info (JOT) notes on the worksheet and then write out what they will say. There is a bit of editing I do and again depending on their level, I may type out what they have written in order for them to read it.
The students practice a bunch until they can read/speak fluently about their book. I model powerful speaking and also model the opposite of powerful speaking. I record only one or two Book Talks a day. We show the videos at Open House.
The videos the students create are short, sometimes mumbled and stumbling, sometimes clear and powerful. Regardless of the outcome of the video, the learning of story elements, persuasion, and speaking is engaging and invaluable.