A few months back, my family was featured on a commercial for a local furniture store. We got paid handsomely to sit on a couch and look happy (easy) and cute (easy for my toddler). No dialogue. No acting. Just…sitting. It was well within my wheelhouse.
When the commercial ran, my daughter Ellie would race up to the screen in our living room, point excitedly, and exclaim, “LOOK! It’s ME!” Anytime she heard the telltale voice of the announcer, she would drop whatever she was doing and run to see if she was “in the television” again.
Her reaction was adorable (I’m biased), and pretty typical for a little kid who loves smiling for pictures and seeing herself in videos, but it would seem that as we grow, our perception of ourselves on screen tarnishes a bit. I mostly noticed how painfully true it is that the camera adds ten pounds. How cruel. Thankfully, others often aren’t paying attention to such trivialities (I hope).
What’s important is the content.
In our classrooms, content takes many forms, but no matter the medium, we’re looking for the message to come through loud and clear. For example, I teach my students when we work with speaking and listening standards that if we keep the message on pointe (Hurry in for the one day sale…) and organized (Hurry in today; it’s a one day sale), our audience will hopefully focus on the content (Wow, I could save serious bank on a sofa…today) and not our appearance (Hey, she looks like she packed on a few pounds. Ten. It looks like she packed on ten pounds).
So, let’s consider what this means for readers workshop in our classrooms.
Book talks are central to a readers workshop. As such, many of us do them each and everyday. Amy and Shana recently discussed how and why they book talk in class, and one of the most useful quotes I took away from that post was when Amy reiterated the essence of a book talk, saying, “The best book talks are short, energetic, and introduce the book in some insightful or clever way.”
It’s simple: We want to hook our audience. The content is clear (This book is fantastic and you’ll love it too! ) and so is our mission (Read this book!).
With all this in mind, I’m going to ask you to come with me to a place that might make some of your a bit uncomfortable. However, in terms of risk-reward for the promotion of choice reading, this will be well worth the effort.
Let’s take our book talks to the big screen!
Just as Ellie loved seeing herself on screen, students of the digital age delight in the visual medium. So, to add to our book talk repertoire, and even broaden the audience for books that delight our reading communities, here are three simple ways to switch up book talks in your classroom and keep things fresh and clever (personal screentime optional!).
- Guest book talks caught on tape! Several months ago, I read and delighted in Jackie’s post on ways to stir up book talks. One of the suggestions I got rolling with was the guest book talk. Jackie insightfully wrote that “students need positive reading role models in all of their educators.” How true!
I grabbed my phone and went down to Señora Ovalle-Krolick’s room. She had been speaking passionately just a few days before about Richard Wright’s Black Boy. I have yet to read this classic and I knew that her enthusiasm for the text would captivate my students. Before she could say no, I handed her the book and told her that I needed her passion. I asked her to tell me a bit about the book, her reading of it, and why she was recommending it. Her video, captured in one take, spoke beautifully about the text and her connection to it.
Due to scheduling, it wasn’t possible to ask Alejandra to come to each of my classes, but with the video below, I was able to share it with all of my students. I’ve been working on my Social Studies neighbor next. He’s set to book talk via video next week. And all we need is my phone to get recording!
- Go big or go home – book talks on our school’s student newscast. Each week, the fantastic video production students at Franklin High School produce The Saber Roar. In recent months, I’ve helped an amazing student, Tasha Kappes, start a segment entitled Saber Reads. Students, teachers, and administrators (even a few from the district office!) have signed up to book talk some of their favorite selections!
Here is Jessica Lucht, one of my amazing AP students book talking The Young Elites by Marie Lu right around minute 2:45.
- Borrow brilliance from the internet. I learned about Reel Reading from Amy. Book trailers combine all of the elements of a great book talk, with the added bonus of moving pictures, music, and sometimes analysis or quotes. In a post from several years ago, Amy’s students came through with some wonderful book trailers.Jackie talked about using book trailers in this post from last year, and I used a few of her links when I was feeling stuck in supplementing my own book talks recently.
Just last week I wanted to book talk the Pulitzer Prize winning book The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I found the book trailer below the hooked several students with its haunting music and connection to the movie that was made from the book.
What ideas do you have for taking book talks to the big screen? What questions do you have? Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below!
Tagged: Book Talks & Book Reviews