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Category Archives: Book Trailers

2 Ways to Prioritize Student Talk in the Classroom

Workshop affords so many opportunities to explore with the students in front of me as opposed to present a set curriculum to whomever happens to be seated in my classroom. It’s teaching through interaction, and in this case, it’s teaching straight from the kids themselves.

We see it in workshop all the time. Students given the tools to explore the world as readers and writers, and encouraged through personalized learning, quite often take their learning to places our old lesson plan books didn’t always accommodate.

One of the best opportunities for this classroom growth is having students do more and more of the talking. With the right modeling and specific expectations around that student talk, the classroom becomes a place students lead through inquiry, as opposed to follow through completion of teacher set tasks.

discussion-2

Morgan quotes Judy Brady’s “I Want a Wife” to analyze how the repetition supports the sarcastic tone and proves the point that since they do SO much, everyone should want a wife. LOL!

It happened yesterday morning, in fact. My AP students were participating in small group graded discussions. Just reading the last sentence makes me cringe (yes we use a rubric, no, the conversations don’t have to be formulaic as a result), but with choice in which readings from our unit they wanted to discuss and some guiding questions throughout the discussion, our conversation about gender and the implications of historical stereotypes on a modern world (their direction for the discussion, not mine) took an interesting turn.

“Mrs. Dennis…you’re smiling weird. What did I say?”

I stop furiously typing comments and look up. “I’m sorry?”

“You had a look. Did I say something wrong?”

“Sarah, you said nothing wrong,” I smile and glance around the table. Seven intrigued faces look back at me. “In the last few minutes this group has, largely unprompted, connected several essays through the lens of analysis, used terminology we’ve not discussed since September, Trinity uttered the words, ‘I don’t believe gender pronouns are even really necessary anymore,’ and then supported her opinion with specific text evidence, and several of you actually just murmured sentiments of excitement to shift the discussion to Judy Brady’s satirical 1971 piece ‘I Want a Wife.’ I’m smiling because I was just thinking about how I used to give short answer reading comprehension quizzes on these pieces.”

“Oh,” said Sarah, “This is way better.”

Yup.  This was a discussion they wanted to have. This was a discussion I wanted to hear. They took the lead, in fact one of our rubric bands demands that, and they came to the

discussion

Part of a small group discussing racial stereotyping colliding with gender stereotyping in the Brent Staples piece “Just Walk On By”

discussion prepared to drive conversation from the perspectives of authors like Brent Staples, Deborah Tannen, John and Abigail Adams, and Judith Ortiz. Perspectives that regard gender through stereotype, race, satire, narrative, an exchange of letters almost 250 years ago, and visual texts.

Did I just sit back and let them talk, free-for-all style? No. This conversation took practice, feedback, and correction over the past few months. Today, it took redirection on some occasions and additionally it took specific intervention for those students reluctant to participate. Additionally, had it been a lower-level class, I would have been a bit more actively involved to start. But as you well know, students at any level are capable of, and actually far more likely, to get actively involved if their efforts for comprehension are supported and their exploration of the text is encouraged. We work specifically on ways to communicate both agreement and polite disagreement, so students can help clarify the text as well as analyze it.

Like any solid workshop component, it involves careful teacher planning and modeling, but equal parts careful student leading as we gradually release them to own their own education. 

We assess students on their preparation for the discussion with visible notes and use of specific text to support their points and their leadership within the group. That leadership can be exhibited through meaningfully involving others to bring them into the discussion with a question, synthesizing ideas they have heard so far, and/or including insights from additional research on a particular topic to extend discussion beyond the reading.

I spend a whole class period for discussions, breaking the class into groups of 7-10 students so all voices have more opportunity to be heard. Students not in the discussion have specific work to complete, sometimes by the end of the hour. For feedback, I type comments and insights while the students are speaking, so I can quickly copy/paste them into the comment section of my feedback form (A Google form emailed directly to students with 2 Common Core based rubric bands as dropdown tabs so I can just click the score for each band, include specific typed feedback, and often get that feedback out to kids the same day).

Another opportunity for seriously impactful student talk, is handing over the daily book talk to the class.

One of the many benefits of this scenario is that I can tap into growing student enthusiasm about books and have my kids spread the book love directly with each other. Don’t get me wrong, my book talks are something to behold. Part forensics piece, part reader’s theater, and part screentest for the literary loony bin, I sell books much like I would envision the traveling vacuum salesmen of yore putting food on the table with a pitch of salvation not just for the home, but the soul. It’s not just going to clean your carpets, it’s going to change you life, Ma’am. Your life. 

But, let’s be real. Though I sprinkle my classroom with good will, good cheer, and good books, I’m not the best salesperson in the room. If you’re going to sell the vacuum with radial root cyclone technology (I Googled that), or the book with 389 scary looking pages on dystopian fantasy rooted in a chromed society, you need to know your audience. You need to relate to your audience. You need to be one with your audience.

There are plenty of reasons to get kids doing your book book talks, not the least of which is I can’t read fast enough these days to keep up with the need for the type of really passionate and informed book talks that come from having read the whole text (Books do sell themselves sometimes, just by reading the back cover and a page or two at the start, but I love to hook kids with a section from the middle to show the impact of the rising action or depth of character development).

book-talk

Priyanka book talking Stitches, a graphic novel by David Small, under the document camera.

  • Students trust one another’s opinions. Yes, often more than mine. I sell hard, but at the end of the day, I’m usually still the biggest book nerd in the room, and therefore I think I am occasionally regarded in much the same way  as the Dancing Grannies in a holiday parade: Enthusiastically adorkable, but a bit of an anomaly to be trusted only at a distance.
  • They find titles, authors, and series that aren’t yet on my radar. Despite my best efforts, I can’t read fast enough or comb enough best of lists to meet the recommendation needs of over 120 kids. But when the classroom experiences a new student perspective on reading each class, additional book talks at their tables after reading, speed dating with books,  and an invitation to help grow our classroom library with tax free, gluten free, guilt free donations of gently used books, everyone wins and the depth of our classroom repertoire grows.
  • Their enthusiasm is relatable and often focused on books that don’t speak to my own bibliophilic tendencies, but can ignite the reading sensibilities of their adolescent peers. For example, I took several YA Lit books home at the start of last summer. Two days in, I was already struggling with the voice. It grated on me (no offense scholars) after hearing it all day in person for 180 days. So when a student book talks The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding, and two sophomores in my class (who have struggled to meet reading goals week after week) add it to their “I Want to Read List”s, that’s another win, because we can’t push kids to deepen their reading if they aren’t reading. First hook them, then book them with more challenging pieces.
  • I offer up the option to produce their book talks digitally and for some students, this is what makes the entire experience meaningful. Students sell their books through book trailers, compilations of related imagery and voice over to meet the same requirements of a live book talk. I’ve had kids include clips of author interviews, live action fight scenes with voiced over dialogue directly from the text, and this year, I have a student who wants to read over the top of a mannequin challenge he plans to shoot to represent some of the major action in the text.

What results is growing book lists, renewed enthusiasm as students go back to books they’ve read and revisit their love for the text, and involving each and every single student as a valued reader in our classroom community.

We’d love to hear from you! What tips and tricks for student talk make their way into your daily workshop practice? Please comment below! 

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Try it Tuesday: Book Talks on the Big Screen

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…todayand 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!). 


 

  1. 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!

    https://www.facebook.com/lisa.n.dennis.7/videos/10154184296661549/?l=2213863947109559232

  2. 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.

    In this episode, zip to minute 3:40 to see a book talk I did with my colleague, bestie, and partner in crime, Erin Doucette on Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. 

  3. 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! 

Five things you can do to guarantee your students will read

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. [Books are] so endlessly delicious.”
― Ruth Reichl

I’ve spent a lot of time with the love birds my children gave me for my birthday. They are beautiful. Marianne and Colonel Brandon And scared. I made the mistake of not reading enough about them before I tried my hand at training. Now, I am having to back track just to get them to like me. I knew better. Should have done my research.

It all starts with trust. Every day I put my hand inside the cage, hold it there, and just talk. I talk about the weather — it’s been quite tragic in north TX lately. I talk about the book their names come from — Sense and Sensibility. (My daughter dubbed them Marianne and Colonel Brandon.) I talk about how we will be the best of friends if they will just trust me.

Colonel Brandon bit my finger and held on so hard I stamped my feet for five full seconds hoping he would let go.

I’ve even tried speaking my limited Spanish. (The birds came from a Mexican vendor at an outdoor market.)

“Hola, buenos dias.”

Sitting on the floor near the cage is my school bag. In it is my conferring notebook. It holds a roster with check marks for books read and pages for each student where I record our conversations about books and reading.

This morning I was finally able to get Marianne to step up on to a perch and gently pull her from the cage. She sat on the top, eating happily on a millet twig. Progress.

I flipped through the notebook, remembering conversations I’ve had with students this fall.

“I used to love to read,” Henry told me, but then I didn’t like textbooks so I didn’t read anything again until 8th grade.

“What do you mean textbooks, you mean like an anthology of stories and poems and such?”

“Yes, those,” he said, “I hated those, so I just didn’t read anything in middle school. Then my teacher in 8th grade let us choose the books we wanted, and I read a ton. Hunger Games, Divergent, all those dystopian books. Then in 9th and 10th it was back to textbooks. I stopped reading.”

Henry was a hard sell at first. I’d already set up the routines in my reader’s workshop classroom. He missed the read arounds, the notebook set up, the initial book talks with the titles I know students love every year. And just like with my birds, I started wrong with Henry.

I expected him to step up without question into our reading world. He didn’t.

I had to back track and build some trust. I’d do a book talk and then set the book not far from him. I’d talk to other students about their reading near enough so Henry could hear. I’d ask Henry questions and I’d listen to his answers, so he would know I cared about him as a person more than as a reader.

And Henry started reading.

Henry has read four books since September when he joined my class:  Article 5, Friday Night Lights, Peace Like a River, and Labron James’ Dream Team.  Not bad for a young man who went two years without reading anything in 9th and 10th grade.

For any teacher who says independent reading just doesn’t work for you or your students, I issue this challenge:  Backtrack and try again.

Five things you can do to guarantee your students will read:

  1. Read. The more you read books you think your students will enjoy, the more you will be able to talk about books your students will enjoy. Don’t have a clue about YA? Read anything by Matthew Quick, A.S. King, Jandy Nelson, or John Green (my personal favorites). You’ll have a good start.
  2. Share book talks daily. Talk about books you know students love. If you don’t know titles, ask your librarian for help, read book lists like this one, read lists we’ve shared in previous posts.
  3. Show book trailers. I used to post book trailers on this blog. You’ll find many post with trailers, interviews, and other ideas here.
  4. Get students talking. The more students talk to one another about their reading the better your chances of getting all students to read. One favorite activity in my classroom is speed dating with a book.
  5. Give students time. I heard it first from Penny Kittle:  “If they aren’t reading with you, they are not reading without you.” We must give students time to read during class. Too many teachers and administrators think silent reading is not a good use of instruction time. FALSE. The only way to become a reader — or to become a better reader — is to read. If we want students to develop the habits of life-long readers, we must help them develop the habits in class where we can help them 1) stay focused, 2) learn what readers do when they get stuck, 3) practice choosing books for learning and for pleasure, 4) make plans for future reading.

 

What tips can you share for anyone who’s struggling with independent reading? Please leave your suggestions in the comments. Thanks!

 

 

Wrapping up with book trailers

After a slew of snow days and an extended year that pushed the end of school into the second-to-last week of June, my students’ motivation lagged as we approached our final month together. They needed an engaging project that still proved to be challenging and fun. Inspired by Amy’s work, my students and I celebrated the end of the reader’s workshop with a final book trailer project.

The process was organic; students latched onto the idea of watching mentor texts and dissecting the craft to gain a firmer understanding of the writing genre. Over the course of a few days, we analyzed and discussed the differences between the book and movie trailers for John Green’s upcoming film Paper Towns, a class favorite. We combed through countless examples of professional book trailers, dissecting the craft of the films and looking at the cinematography, hook, pacing, script, music, and scene choices. Finally, after brainstorming and storyboarding, students used Stupeflix, WeVideo, Puppet Edu, or iMovie to generate stunning book trailers. The results blew me away.  Here is a small sample of some of the trailers I’ll be using to supplement my book talks next year.

**Make sure to unmute the video. In some cases, the sound doesn’t automatically play.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown–Created by Matt

http://https://www.wevideo.com/hub#media/ci/410328553

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins–Created by Emily

Missing Pieces by Meredith Tate–Created by Alyssa

Looking for Alaska by John Green–Created by Tristan

Reel Reading for Real Readers

ReelReading2For about two years now I’ve posted book trailers, author interviews, and a few other online resources (like the amazing Pinterest boards for The Goldfinch and Alice Bliss) as a way to help guide my students into the world of reading.

I’ve found there are two prime ways that students get interested in a book.

1. I have to love it. If I read a short passage and share my experience while reading a certain book, and students see how it made me think or made me feel, without question, at least one student asks immediately to check it out from my classroom library. Usually there’s a waiting list.

2. I have to help them “see” the book. If I show books trailers, even movie trailers, and help students visualize the story line or the characters or the action, even my struggling readers are more likely to at least give a book a try. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

I have had great success in developing readers this year, especially this year. Maybe I finally figured out how my personal passion for books can work to accelerate student interest in books. More likely it’s the time I allowed for my teens to explore the bookshelves, talk to each other about what they are reading, and the time I gave them to read. Every. Day.

My students will evaluate their reading lives next week as the last task I ask of them. They will interview each other and think about our growth as readers. I know that talking about books, showing book trailers, (and investing a lot of time and money in a phenomenal classroom library) is why I am going to smile all the while as I read their evaluations.

Reel Reading post will take a break this summer.

I’d love to hear of your successes with students and reading this year.

Reel Reading for Real Readers: Going Bovine

ReelReading2There’s something about the cover that bothers me. Maybe I just don’t get it.

But as I pulled this book from the box of new ones, a student reached for it eagerly.

“Please read that book and tell me what all the fuss is about,” I said.

And off she went.

Here’s a cool trailer for Libba Bray’s Going Bovine.

Have you read it? What’s the deal with the cover?

Reel Reading for Real Readers: The Goldfinch

ReelReading2This is by far the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Check out this Pinterest board with all the art mentioned in the new Pulitzer Prize winning book The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Oh, my lovely!

Art in the Goldfinch

I tried an audio book for the first time, and I am kicking myself for waiting so long to “read” this way. Maybe it’s this book. I don’t know, but the descriptions fascinate me. Maybe that’s why the artwork posted on this Pinterest board fascinates me so.

I love this novel, and I cannot wait to share it with students. At one point the narrator even refers to his AP English class. I have some students who will love this book as much as I do.

I cannot wait for us to talk about it — oh, and all this art!

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