Book Talks

Students often choose books to read based on the recommendation of their peers. A book talk is a brief overview of a book designed to raise the interest of potential readers. In many ways, it is a sales pitch for the book given by someone who has read it. The teacher should model book talks before asking students to create them.

Begin by selecting one or more books to share with your class. Write a brief, engaging presentation that includes the title, author, genre, setting, and a brief summary. Remember not to give away important plot twists. You may want to describe a key moment of conflict from the book without revealing how the conflict is resolved. Then leave the audience with "If you want to know what happened, read this book!" Use language that will persuade others to read the book. Give the reasons that you liked the book and why you think others should read it. Practice your book talk. Make sure that it is brief and engaging and that it gives enough information for someone to make a decision about whether or not to read the book.

Finally, make an audio recording of each student delivering his or her book talk. Each one will be an episode in the book talk podcast series from your class. Your students will be able to share their work with their families, with other classes in the school and with readers everywhere. See the resources listed on the Classroom Podcasting home page for more information about how to record and publish your podcast.

Because of the digital nature of the podcast, it can be shared with a very wide audience. Assuming that you do not include photographs of the students and that you have the students use first names only, you should be able to share these book talks with the widest possible audience on the internet. If you’d like to add visuals to the audio podcast, you can include students’ illustrations of scenes from the book. As your students complete the assignment, you will be building a classroom library of book talks. Whenever a student in your class is ready to start a new book, he or she can browse your class library of book talks to find a book that might interest him or her. In addition, students from other classes, other schools, or other children outside of school, will be able to use the resource to get book recommendations. The podcast series can also be available to students from year to year. New students can add their own reviews to the existing library. Since many perspectives exist for any book, allow multiple reviews of the same book. The students will respond to different elements within a book and the audience may relate to the perspective of one reviewer more than another.

A typical book report is read by the classroom teacher, possibly heard by the other students in class, and ends there. Using podcasting with book talks extends the audience in time and space. A classmate might listen to your podcast six months later. A child on the other side of the country or the other side of the world may listen to it the next day. Podcasting can transform a typical classroom assignment by making it an authentic opportunity to interact with others. Students will want to do a good job with their book talks not just to get a good grade, but because others will be using their book talks to choose a book. Classroom teachers may want to set up exchange programs where students in different classrooms listen to each others’ book talks.

This exercise could easily be done with students from primary grades through high school. Obviously the level of the reading material varies, but the key elements remain the same. In primary grades, each book talk will be much shorter. In high school, the reviewer can pose higher level questions of the audience. Book talk podcasts could also be created and used by pre-service or in-service teachers recommending children’s books for classroom use or professional development books or articles.