How We Talk About Books

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How do your readers talk about books?

For years, I never bothered to teach students how to talk about books. I didn’t spend class time on it, but I sure would get frustrated when readers would say things like, “It was good.” I wanted them to dig deeper and share more, and was so frustrated that they didn’t. Talking about books is one of those things I thought kids just automatically knew how to do. Almost a decade in, I’ll go ahead and share a spoiler alert: THEY DON’T. Once I realized that, I knew that it needed to be a major part of curriculum – because the way we talk about books has a deep and lasting impact on the way we feel about books. After all, our language shapes our lives. So now, with students in every grade, we model, practice, teach shortcuts, practice more, model more, and then keep practicing.

In sixth grade, we really start focusing on book talk and how we describe, suggest, and recommend the books that we read. Over time, Mr. Passmore and I have created a few book talk sentence-starters that help students to zero in on how to describe books in a meaningful and effective way. Here are some examples:

  • This book reminds me of…
  • This book made me feel…
  • This book made me wonder…
  • I’m reading to try to find out…
  • This character reminds me of…

Before they can start using them themselves, it helps readers to see these sentence-starters in action. This week, sixth graders did a “gallery walk” of color-coded book-talk sentence starters. Each sentence starter was assigned a Post-It color, so students could navigate to a certain sentence-starter if they found it the most interesting. You can see a few examples in the photos above. As they walked, we readers them to consider: Which sentience starter captivates you the most? Which one would you use of you were suggesting a book to a friend? We’ll see a lot more of these sentence-starters this year as we work more and more with book talks and the way our language can have an impact on our reading.

Do you directly teach book talk in your classroom or library? What tricks and ideas work for you?

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