This past week, one of our English/Language Arts teachers wanted me to teach her students how to give a book talk for a multimedia project they are working on. The lesson included a discussion of the elements of a good book talk, a rubric with the success criteria that would show mastery, and me doing a couple of book talks as exemplars. The students were able to recognize and assess the required elements within my book talks, but how could they quickly demonstrate application of what they had learned?
Enter picture books.
Students were grouped at tables, so I gave each table a picture book. The groups had 5 minutes to read and discuss the story, then 5 minutes to devise a book talk about it.
The looks on students' faces when I handed out the books? Utter joy. Pandemonium ensued as they all tried to read aloud the stories to each other, but it was an awesome, productive noise where everyone was completely engaged. Each group was able to complete the task and, in most cases, meet the success criteria on a high level.
By using picture books for the task, students were not struggling with the content of what they read, but focusing their concentration on creating a book talk meeting the required elements – the thrust of the lesson. By successfully completing the task with the simpler books, they demonstrated readiness to repeat the process with the novels they are reading in class.
Should you use picture books in a middle school? You bet! The clever, yet easily grasped stories in them are a great way to illustrate more complex literary concepts.
For more ideas, check out this article from School Library Journal: http://ow.ly/TOPiN
P.S. - If you ever want to see middle school boys wrestle with a “make good decisions” moment, tell them to book talk It’s a Book by Lane Smith.
Some days, magic happens.
That day when the technology works, the lesson goes well, the children are completely engaged, and your fellow teachers come sign out technology so that they may take the lesson to the next level.
Friday was such a day.
Each Friday, I have one grade in for a brief lesson and a checkout. Two classes each period times six class periods. I get the students for 20 minutes -10 of which are for book checkout, so the lessons must be compact and include some sort of enticement to check out a new book.
Last week, I had the idea that I needed more information about each class to help tailor my book talks to the students in front of me. Our school has recently implemented Google Apps for Education (GAFE), so I wanted to include some aspect of technology in my lesson.
The students loved seeing which words were the most popular, they got a chance to practice logging in to their new GAFE accounts, and I now have waitlists for almost every book I talked about.
The teachers loved seeing their classes' word clouds – most of them asked if I could email them the results. One of them is now creating a Google Form as part of an assessment, something she had not done before, and two others are incorporating Wordle into lessons. It was a great way to end a long and stressful week.
Some days, magic happens.
As a teacher librarian in a 6-8 middle school, when I'm not dreaming up all sorts of tactics to get books into my students' hands, I am seeking new ways to harness technology to help them learn.
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