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Try it, You Might Like It! January 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — bvanetten @ 8:30 pm

I am determined to get these kids to give reading a chance.

More realistically, I want to get them to think differently about reading than they do now, which is that reading is a boring activity that teachers force on innocent children. This Literacy Community project is essential for meeting that aim.

This week I introduced the students to two new long term projects that we will be working on together through the end of the year. The first is a series of book talks which the students will give in class. They were immediately opposed to the idea because they are incensed any time they are asked to speak while standing. On Wednesday, I modeled the book talk, emphasizing that the point was to share a book you like with the class, and a synopsis so the other students can decide if the book might be something they might like reading. I told them that as a class, we seemed like we are in something of a slump when it comes to finding things we like to read. I used The Hunger Games to model what they are supposed to do when they give their own. After I was done, many of the students were asking me if the school library has copies they can read, which I took as a sign that they will respond positively to book talks. [If I can find the video of me modeling it, I will post it below]

I decided that three students will give talks every Friday afternoon. I told them I would let them volunteer, but that everyone had to go by the end of the year. In all three periods I had enough students volunteer to cover the first and second weeks, which surprised me. The student book talks went really well, and I was shocked when some of my students who are the least engaged on a normal day were the first to volunteer. I was also pleased that the other students were respectful and clapped for the students who talked to the class.

The second project I introduced is a class discussion forum on librarything.com. I wanted to use goodreads.com, but its blocked on the school’s network, so we make do. On Friday I had the kids sign up for accounts while we were in the library. My idea is that I will post discussion questions on our class forum and the kids will have to respond once a week. The first question is, “Who is the greatest character in a book of all time?” My hope is that if they spend time on there, they will be exposed to the vast variety of literature that is available in the world, as well as to a social world of people who enjoy reading and willingly engage in discussions about what they read. Unfortunately, the website is not very user-friendly, and I the kids were a little bit frustrated trying to use it. That project is certainly in the experimental stage.

The bottom line is, most students associate reading with homework, and have it in their heads that they don’t like to read. Which means that even when they come in contact with literature they might like, they ignore it. I am endeavoring to institute projects and opportunities in my classroom that break down that attitude, and encourage students to change the way they think about reading.

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6 Responses to “Try it, You Might Like It!”

  1. JennyKop Says:

    Bonnie I’m so excited you’re trying this in your classroom! I mentioned book talks to my mentor at the beginning of the year and she was all for it. We began planning how we would implement them and I typed up a couple forms the students could fill out after/before their talk so we could post them around the classroom to build our literacy community. Unfortunately, so many things got in the way each week and disrupted our introduction of this project. Now we have gotten into the habit of using our independent reading days to tutor students who need extra help or talk with students about their current independent reading individually. I love that you found a website to help students get exposed to other literature. Sometimes I informally ask students to talk about books they like at the end of an independent reading period if they’re getting restless, and often the students who seem to hate reading have something to share. I hope that remains the case in your classes and you have great success with the talks. Maybe I can come observe some Friday??

    • bvanetten Says:

      Jen –
      The nice thing about the book talks is they really only take about 10 minutes (I told them they had to talk for 2 minutes, but I was lenient and most only did about 1:30, but I suspect this will become longer as they become more comfortable). I have it on the agenda when they came in with the names of the 3 students going that day listed, so they came in and were ready and there was no arguing about the order. So, if you wanted to try it you could probably do it at the beginning and have the rest of the time for those other things you want to do. It’s also a good transition time from coming in from passing period to being expected to quiet down and read silently for 48 minutes.
      The institutionalized forum for talking about books is nice, but I think there is a lot of value in those informal conversations you have with students about their reading, too. It takes some of the public pressure off, and gives them a moment to connect with you, and get some of the reassurance they are sometimes looking for when they aren’t confident. I try to do this too on library days to work on connecting with kids. I now have a few girls who always want to talk about the merits of Peeta vs. Gale with me now that they know I read Hunger Games too, haha.
      You are welcome to visit any time!

  2. Jayme Busser Says:

    Hey Bonnie, I think what you are doing here is phenomenal. I think your book talks will help some kids just figure out what to read. For me that was the hardest part when I was younger. I wanted to read, but I’d get a chapter or so in and still not be interested in it at all. It would get frustrating going from book to book. The back covers never did a good job either. I think the book talks will really help. Good job and Good luck!

    • bvanetten Says:

      I think it makes a big difference where the recommendations is coming from, too. Hearing a peer say, “I read this, it was awesome!” is much different than hearing an adult in an authority position who you might not have that much in common with say the same thing. What was really interesting was what they chose to highlight. Some of them talked about books I had read, and what they highlighted as being the most interesting ideas or moments in the books were not what I would have – but I’m not 13, so in that sense, I’d say their opinions probably matter a lot more.

  3. nicholepeer Says:

    Bonnie,
    I’ve been doing booktalks for a few months now. Initially the kids were really jazzed and thought it was cool. I started off by asking them what they needed in a recommendation to decide if it was worth reading. We came up with a criteria.
    And now they’ve fallen flat. No more volunteers, no preparation, etc..
    For some reason they listen when the librarian, Mrs. Mitchell, or I tell them about a great book but they don’t listen to each other. If you can deal with this issue I would love to pick your brain sometime. Also, I videoed a few book talks today. Could we compare our students’ booktalks?

    • bvanetten Says:

      Well, since we just started doing this activity I don’t know if they will listen to one another’s recommendations or not…but there are some other aims of the activity which is to get them comfortable talking about what they read and sharing what they enjoyed about it (as well as any critiques) and also to let them see what a wide range of things their peers are choosing to read, even if it is not something they would choose to read themselves.


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