Let’s Talk About Books: Book Talks in the Classroom

Getting our students or children to read is often challenging in this multi-media world.  Yet, I’ve found, that even my reluctant readers are interested in a good story.  The thing is- they’re lazy.  Not all of them, but many of them, and the idea of having to sift through books to find one that interests them doesn’t sound like fun.  Or, they don’t find what they want in the first 3-5 books and they give up.  Many of us have AWESOME classroom or school libraries.  We’ve taken time to collect books, buy books, and organize our books only to have our shelves sit there unused.  This is a waste!  Books are not for decoration, they are to be read!

YA

If you’re like me you have a hard time passing up a good deal on a book or a new book so your library is ever growing.  What I like to do when I get new books that I am adding to my shelves is do a brief Book Talk about them.  I often use this as filler right at the end of class.  I show the students the book and give a brief (no spoilers) synopsis.  I tell them, much like I do on this blog, who I think will be most interested by the book.  I relate it to other books or movies I think they may have read/seen and enjoyed.  I let kids thumb through it.  I answer questions.  I am EXTREMELY excited and animated when I discuss the books.  I GUSH about how much I loved it and why.  And almost always the books are immediately checked out.

I also do something similar when a student asks me for a recommendation or when the class finishes a book that they overall enjoyed.  I suggest several other options for their next read.  I find out what they like and are interested in and make suggestions off of that.  I don’t worry about reading level too much because I’ve found that if they really are interested they will find a way.  I also suggest audio books for some of my lower level readers.

Your excitement can and will rub off on your students.  Use it to your advantage.  Get our children reading so they can become lifelong learners.

What about you?  Do you do book talks?  How do you let students know about new books on your shelves?  Or ones that just aren’t getting the attention they deserve?  What works for you and your students/children?  Let me know in the comments.

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Teaching Tools: Tears of a Tiger- Sharon Draper

Full disclosure- this is shameless self promotion.

That being said- I’ve created a packet of vocabulary activities, spelling/vocab tests, and questions to assist teachers with a 4 week long unit on Tears of A Tiger by Sharon Draper.  I’ve used all of the provided information in my own classroom and was met with success.  You can buy just the vocabulary packet, just the comprehension packet, or them all together as a bundle.

 

Vocabulary Packet $2.50 

Comprehension Packet $4.50

Vocabulary + Comprehension BUNDLE! $6.00  <— Your best value!

 

Want to see your own stuff on TPT?  Click HERE and sign up!

 

Check out my review of Tears of A Tiger!

Thug Notes

I recently discovered the youtube videos of “Thug Notes” where a black man gives a summary and literary analysis of classic literature using current slang popular in the urban population- and to an extent suburbia as well.  I am pretty impressed with the content and analysis but am disappointed that there is some swearing and images that may be questioned in a school context.  Another issue that some students have brought up- I teach primarily in urban settings- is the idea that people seem to think their students will only pay attention if we find a “rap” to teach a concept or other pointedly black forms of expression.  Some of my students felt this was demeaning.  I in no way think that is the idea behind these techniques- rather, we, as teachers, are struggling to keep content relevant.  So what are your thoughts- do Thug Notes hit the right notes or are they in poor taste?

 

NCTE 2011- Chicago, IL

I attended the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention in Chicago from last Thrusday through this Sunday and I had the time of my life! I had no idea what to expect when attending but I ended up geeking out like an awkward fangirl for the majority of the conference. Why was I geeking out? I got to hear/meet/see so many awesome authors!

On Thursday at the Secondary Section kick off I heard Chris Crutcher (Whale Talk) speak!

I stood in line for 20 minutes to get a copy of Paper Towns by John Green signed! He was just as quirky and funny in person as I’ve seen on his YouTube videos and heard about! I also saw him speak about using Chicago as a backdrop for at least one of his books.

I saw David Levithan speak twice- once also about using Chicago in his books and once about censorship. I haven’t read anything by him, but my interest is definitely piqued now!

Walter Dean Myers (Monster) was signing books, but unfortunately I had a session to get to. I did see him though!

Katherine Paterson (author of Bridge to Teribethia) and Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak) were also on the panel discussion censorship and were extremely interesting!

Laurie Halse Anderson, Katherine Paterson, David Levithan

And here, is a picture of me meeting Angela Johnson (The First Part Last) and Sharon Draper (Battle of Jericho).  Both ladies were super nice and took at least a minute to listen to me tell them just a few things about my students. I had Draper sign a copy of Battle of Jericho to my students because we just finished reading it in our “book club.”  They thought it was pretty cool when I showed them!

Angela Johnson, Me, Sharon Draper

I came away with approximately 30 books- most of which I got for free and which are ARCs.  So keep your eye peeled here for upcoming reviews!   If anyone teaches English and is on the fence about attending the conference next year you should go!  I learned so much, got tons of free books, met lots of authors and generally enjoyed myself!  And, if those aren’t reason enough- it’s in Las Vegas next November!

NY Times Article on Dystopian Themes

When I saw the name of this The New York Times “Room for Debate”, “The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction” in my Google Reader I was instantly intrigued.  The New York Times has an online segment devoted to teaching and learning and that is where I found this article, “Dark Materials: Reflecting on Dystopian Themes in Young Adult Literature.” Take a look- what are your thoughts?  Have you explored these themes in your classroom?  If not maybe some of the lesson ideas will allow you to do so.  I’m definitely bookmarking this page for future reference.

Dystopian YA Novels for Teens:

The Giver- Lois Lowry
The Hunger Games (trilogy)- Suzanne Collins
Ugles (series)- Scott Westerfeld

Dystopian Novels:

1984- George Orwell
A Brave New World- Huxley

Huckleberry Finn Poll #1

The Huckleberry Finn Debate

I know this is an ongoing debate all over the web, but I’m throwing my two cents in.

The word “nigger” should NOT be removed from Huckleberry Finn.  If it is removed just to make people more “comfortable” a true understanding of the time and novel will not be had.  I had to read Of Mice and Men aloud to my classes this year and it too uses the “n-word”, albeit much less.  It was difficult to make my mouth say it.  I have a zero tolerance policy for students using the word with either an -er or -a, ending.  But I did it, because it was a part of the time and was a part of the book.  Would I choose to use a book written in today’s times, about today’s times that used that word? Probably not.  But our history is not one of tolerance and open mindedness and PC speech.  If we ignore what happened in the past it will lose it’s meaning.  And that, I’m not ok with.

 

Here’s a New York Times blog post you can use to discuss this with your students.

 

What are your thoughts?