More Than Just a Book Report: The Benefits of a Five-Minute Conversation

More Than Just a Book Report: The Benefits of a Five-Minute Conversation

As an English teacher, one of my goals is to try to convince students that reading can be a pleasurable pastime, something that can expand their imagination and increase their knowledge. And how do I do this? By encouraging them to read books outside the assigned curriculum. I set some parameters, offer a variety of suggested books, give them class time for reading, and then sit back and watch my students turn into voracious little readers.

To keep tabs on students’ progress in completing this reading assignment, I have them do a book talk with me when they’ve finished a book. Students will schedule a time to meet with me (usually at lunch or before or after school), and I will ask them questions about the book to see how well they understood and enjoyed the book. Over the years, I’ve found that this is not only a great accountability measure, but it is an excellent way to get to know my students on a more personal level.

The Logistics:

  1. Set a page limit that is within reach of your students. For high school students, for example, you may want to have them read roughly 10 pages per school day. If you teach lower grades, you might go with a lower number.
  2. Your school site or district may already have rules about independent reading, but the three suggested rules are:
    • The book has to be something they have not read before
    • It has to be an appropriate reading level
    • It has to be a book that their parents or guardians approve of (I use this as the “inappropriate content” filter).
    • Aside from these, give your students the freedom to read books that they find interesting and enjoyable.
  3. Provide your students with a list of recommended books. (Check out Amy’s Bookshelf for great book lists for all ages!) There are few more gratifying things about being a teacher than watching a student fall in love with one of your favorite books. So create your own recommended reading list to give to students, or talk to your school librarian to collaborate on a list. Invest in creating a classroom library of books for students to borrow, and take your class to the school library once a month or so to let them pick out a book.
  4. Give students class time to read. This can be difficult at the secondary level because we have so much content to get through and so little time to do it, but you can likely afford 20-30 minutes per week for reading. This helps students establish the practice of reading, and helps eliminate the excuses of not having enough time to complete the reading requirement.
  5. When students have finished their book, have them schedule a time to do a book interview. During these five-minute conversations, ask them about details in the book like characters, plot points, conflicts, etc. You could also open the book up to a random page, read a paragraph, and have the student tell you what is happening in that part of the book.

The Benefits:

  • The more students read, the better thinkers and writers they will be. This will have benefits not only in English Language Arts but in all subject areas. Plus, there are the lasting benefits of developing in students a lifelong love of reading.
  • Doing book talks eliminates written reports that need to be read, scored, and filed by you, the teacher. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
  • Enjoy some one-on-one time with each student. At the secondary level, anywhere between 100 and 170 students come in and out of our classrooms each day. And not all of those students are active, vocal participants in class discussions and activities. This may be the only time you actually hear these students’ voices and have a real conversation with them.
  • Fostering relationships with your students through these book talks will have a great impact on your classroom community.

Book talks give you an opportunity to get to know your students on a more personal level. Talking about a book is a great segue into conversations about other topics. It’s a chance to recommend other books to them, as well as for them to recommend books to you. It gives us a chance to see our students as real people with real interests and hobbies. It can be genuinely surprising what you learn from your students in just five short minutes.

Also Check Out:

More Than Just a Book Report: The Benefits of a Five-Minute Conversation

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ryan m blanck


Ryan is a high school English teacher. He is also a husband, father, writer, and LEGO artist. He loves movies (especially old Hollywood musicals) and is a huge baseball fan.

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