Having students read books of their choice is a key part of all English teaching at our school. In many of our classes, particularly in our mainstream ninth-grade English and ESL classes, students spend fifteen or twenty minutes each day reading in class, and their primary homework is reading for thirty minutes each night. Since we want to promote it as reading for pleasure, we typically expect little additional work connected to their reading — perhaps a couple of times a week we might have them write down a reading strategy or two they have used.
Most of us, though, also talk with someone else about what we are reading. To encourage that practice with my students — and to do it in a way that doesn’t require much work and take away from its pleasure — I do four things in my classes:
* The independent book discussion groups that I’ve previously written about (see “Book Discussion Group Guidelines”).
* In my Intermediate English class, I begin each class with silent reading for ten minutes or so. Then, I give students the option to read a book with a partner if they want, as long as they do so quietly. About half of the class uses that option.
* Every Friday, any student who has completed a book writes the title on a post-it; draws one, two or three stars to rate it; and then puts their name on it. We take a minute and have each student show the book, say how many stars they’re giving to it, and they tape the post-it on a special section on the wall. The whole class cheers for them. But it’s definitely not a race to see who can read the most books, and we don’t keep a public count.
* Every week, or every other week, students complete a “Book Talk” form. Here is the sheet itself if you want to download it, but I’ll also share the questions in the body of this post:
1) Say the title of your book and show it to the other person.
2) Say the name of the book’s author.
3) Explain why you picked the book.
4) Explain what the book is about.
5) Share what you like about the book (you shouldn’t be reading it if you don’t like it!)
6) Share a quote from the book and why you picked it.
It just takes a few minutes to complete — each response can be a sentence or two. Then students pair-up to share their answers, and one or two students then do it in front of the whole class. While they’re talking, each student needs to write a question they want to ask about the book, and the presenter can pick whomever they want to ask their question.
It’s a very short and simple way to help students experience talking about what they’re reading and also stimulate interest among other students when they listen.
What do you do to get students talking about what they’re reading?