Virtual Book Talks for the WinPosted In Literature | Posted By Kristy Robins
Virtual Book Talks
Many homeschool parents ask, “How can I help my child develop a love of reading?” We all know that reading is important, but some children just don’t seem to enjoy it very much. The answer is to connect kids with books that appeal to their interests. Kids will often reject reading recommendations made by their parents and other adults, but they tend to be more interested in books suggested by their peers. In the homeschool setting, this can be tricky. Luckily, we can use technology to help kids connect with one another to discover a passion for reading through virtual book talks that can be shared within a homeschool community.
What is a “book talk”?
A book talk is exactly what it sounds like — a brief discussion of a book or an informal oral book report. In my twenty years of teaching public high school, I frequently used book talks to stimulate my students’ interest in reading. In the classroom, I would simply put my students in groups of 3 or 4, give them a handout with suggested questions and discussion topics, and have them discuss the books they had read recently. As I circulated around the room, I was delighted to hear the enthusiasm in their voices as they talked about their reading and decided what to read next. When reading becomes a community activity, students are more able to recognize its value. Book talks allow students to come together to share opinions and explore interests.
How can a homeschool teacher facilitate book talks?
Book talks can be more difficult to pull off in a homeschool setting. Class sizes are generally very small. Students may be at different reading levels or may have dissimilar interests. Luckily, we can use technology to connect homeschool students from different households in a few simple steps!
Find your community of readers.
If you’re already part of a homeschool co-op or parent group, you already have your community. If not, a quick search on social media will help you get connected with other homeschoolers with similar values. For our purposes, geography doesn’t matter. You can connect with homeschool families in other cities, states, and even other countries with the help of the internet.
Decide which app to use and set up your account.
The internet is bursting with free educational apps. You’ll need to find an app that allows the recording, sharing, and storage of videos and that offers security options to keep your students safe from internet predators.
Personally, I recommend Flipgrid. It’s free, simple to use, and can host up to 50 users in a group. Simply sign up for a free educator account and create a group (or multiple groups organized by interest or age group) by adding the email addresses of those who wish to participate. From there, you can create topics that allow students to submit videos of up to 10 minutes (depending on the settings you select) that other students can “like” or comment on using a video response.
Another option is to use Facebook to create a group or to invite participation from an already existing homeschool group. Then, students, with the help of their homeschool teachers, can create and upload videos of themselves discussing their favorite books. This platform also allows students to “like” or comment on the videos.
Create a list of guidelines and discussion questions to help students prepare for the virtual book talks.
Like other types of assignments and class activities, book talks work best when students have some guidance. In terms of general ground rules, the parents would want to have some discussion about what kinds of books are appropriate. Some parents might appreciate or even require that books featuring extreme violence, sexual content, and other objectionable material be excluded from discussion. Also, if the students don’t know each other in real life, I recommend they start the book talk by telling a little bit about themselves (name, age, location, interests). In addition, you might consider creating a list of questions, some required and some optional, for students to use as they prepare their book talks. See the suggestions below to get started.
● What is the title of the book?
● Who is the author of the book?
● What is the genre / subgenre of the book (fiction or nonfiction, YA, sci-fi, historical fiction, dystopian, fantasy, etc.)?
● How many pages are in the book?
● What is this book about? (No spoilers, please.)
● Why do you recommend this book?
● What kind of reader would enjoy this book?
● What did you find to be interesting about this book?
● What did you learn from the book?
● Which character did you relate to the most? Why?
● What themes or topics did you notice in the book?
● How does this book reflect real life?
● How would you rate the difficulty of this book?
● Why do you think the author chose to write this book?
● If you were to make a movie based on this book, whom would you cast in the character roles?
Create a lesson centered around watching the virtual book talks.
Once all the virtual book talks are posted, the fun really begins! Students should take time to watch each other’s videos and consider what they want to read next. This can be a fairly informal activity. You might just have the students watch a certain number of videos (between four and six would be appropriate) and answer a few questions about each on slips of paper. Check out the sample questions below for ideas to get you started:
● What is the title of the book?
● Who is the author of the book?
● Would you want to read this book? Why?
● How likely are you to read this book? Why?
Take advantage of the opportunity to deepen the connection among your community of readers.
Depending on the platform, students can also leave text or video comments in response to the book talks. You’ll want to remind the students to keep a positive and respectful tone when responding to other students’ work. The comments might include words of praise or encouragement, follow up questions about the book, or reading suggestions that are similar to the book presented in the book talk (If you liked __, you’ll probably enjoy reading __.). By responding to each other’s virtual book talks, students can strengthen the community bond and add value to the activity.
We hope virtual book talks get your learning community excited about what they’re reading. Let us know how this activity worked for you in your homeschool by sharing your experiences or reading recommendations in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
If you’re looking for a homeschool literature curriculum, consider Essentials in Literature. With a focus on exploring and analyzing literary elements through short stories, short works of nonfiction, novels, and poetry, Essentials in Literature features engaging video lessons and meaningful analysis assignments delivered in bite-sized chunks that make for a low-stress experience for both the homeschool student and teacher.