May 22, 2013

Book Talk Time and the Library System we use to ORGANIZE IT!

In our room we call it Book Talk and I could talk about BOOK TALK all day long!  Today I am linking up with Jivey for Workshop Wednesday to discuss reading response strategies and I couldn't have been more excited when she announced this week's focus for her linky party! This is my favorite topic to talk about and I truly feel it should be the HEART of LITERACY ALL CLASSROOMS!  

I am also linking up with two fabulous bloggers, Elizabeth over at Fun in 4B and Kristen from Ladybug's Teacher Files to share how I organize our Book Talk library checkout.

I wrote about our procedures for BOOK TALK in a previous post, so I will try to only hit the highlights today for the link-up, but I must warn you,  I am not good at keeping this topic, or any topic about books, short and sweet!

My students enter my classroom to a similar greeting each today. "Good morning, have a quiet seat at your desk."  During the first week, we establish that this actually means, "put your hiney in a seat and your nose in a book!" ;)  They think it is our little secret, and it's funny, so they remember it!   This saves us a couple of precious reading minutes because we don't waste time talking about our plan.  The plan never changes, and why should it?  If they are reading, they are learning!

If they happened to have finished a book before entering my classroom, then they of course, ignore my request and start talking about their books immediately, simply because they can't restrain themselves. I avoid this by reminding them that we can talk all about their book during their conference and I send them to our library to find another book.  More than likely they already know what they want next because we are constantly talking about their future reading plans.  I find that part of the problem with young readers is that they simply don't know what to read.  If they have a plan that they are excited about, it helps eliminate this problem.  We have standing waiting lists in our library and they have a wishlist in the front of the Book Talk notebooks.

This leads me to the organizational part of my post...our library checkout system.  I have read about, and thought of using several different apps and online systems, but I find myself always going back to my old faithful plan that you see below.  This checkout board gives us a visual and the procedures couldn't be more simple and effective.  
I currently teach 3 different blocks of fifth grade ELA. That's a lot of books to check out.  Each homeroom has a pocket chart and each student has their own pocket.  If they are reading a book from home or from a friend for our BOOK TALK time, they simply use a blank blue card.  I know that a blue card means they do not have a book that belongs to me.  If they are reading a book from our school library, they use a blank red card.  Again, I know that book does not belong to me.  If they are reading a book that belongs to me, I am a bit more protective and require a white card with the title of the book written on it.   So in a glance I can tell how many books I have out from my library and who is responsible for each book.  When they change books, they simply change their card.  When they return a book to my library, they take the white card out of the pocket chart and place it in the library pocket in the back of the book.  If it is a new book, then they simply make a title card and put a peel-and-stick pocket in the back of the book.  Easy as pie!  They take care of the entire process.  

Here are a few close-ups of our system:

Assuming everyone has a book, then we can continue with our BOOK TALK RESPONSE TIME.  While my students are reading, I confer with 4 to 5 students.  During these conferences I use an app that I could not live without called CONFER. (see post here if you are interested) During these conferences we talk about several things:

~Each week my students are required to RESPOND to their reading in 3 different written ways.    I model many different response options at the beginning of the year and each option is open after it has been modeled.  I model one at a time to make sure my expectations are very clear for each option, but my students quickly learn that they do not have to stick to the list.  I simply require that they are reading, thinking, and demonstrating good writing about their reading and thinking. :)  If they can find another way to show this, I am perfectly okay with them using their own creativity to express their thoughts.  This opens up many teachable moments where I can address reading and/or writing skills and strategies that specifically apply to each individual student's needs.  I truly feel that this is where I give the most meaningful and lasting instruction.

~During these conferences, we use a rubric to assess their written responses together. I say assess because I don't usually count these as actual grades, we simply use the rubric to make sure expectations are clear.

~Perhaps my favorite thing to do during these conferences is to simply talk about and encourage their reading.  We talk about whether or not they like their books, what they think might happen, connections, whether or not I've read the book, friends that they think might enjoy it, how it might help them choose their next read, etc.  Anything and everything that relates to, and motivates them to read is open for discussion.  :)

~At the conclusion of our conference time, we have some time for open discussions and responses about reading.  We might have a read aloud, I might share a book trailer, or introduce a new book that I've discovered and have added to our library.  We might even have time for a quick mini-lesson, but I would never let them know that I was actually trying to slip instruction into our BOOK TALK time.  I make a point that this is simply a time to CELEBRATE books.  It's not about the work, it's about the pleasure and joy of reading!  Once they are enjoying themselves, the learning comes naturally.   

Most of my students truly enjoy and grow during this time.  This past week I announced that I would not be checking up on their reading through conferences during these last few days, and that they were no longer required to do their written responses.  I actually got MOANS from some of my students!  Can you imagine, moans after a teacher released students from responsibly?  I quickly jumped into a discussion about adults that journal about their reading/thinking and encouraged them to build this as a habit for themselves rather than as an assignment from me.  I explained that I didn't know what expectations their middle school teachers might have for their reading and writing, and that I wanted them to continue their reading lives just as they had in my classroom.  I truly feel that this response to reading time is creating real readers, writers, and thinkers and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Thanks for reading, I know this was a long one! ;)  Take some time to click over and visit Jivey to get some other ideas about how some fabulous teachers and students respond to reading in their classrooms! Also, make sure to visit Fun in 4B and Ladybug's Teacher Files to find some valuable organizational tips for your classrooms!  

Have a fabulous rest of your week Teacher Friends!


  1. Hi Brandee,
    This is such an informative post! Your book talks are organized so well and I love how you emphasize that it is a time for students to just celebrate reading- I feel like a lot of times we end up getting away from just reading for fun because we are concentrating so much on some strategy etc, but it sounds like you have found a way to include all that instruction time without making it frustrating for your students- awesome!

    Learning to the Core

  2. Love. Just love. This is an amazing organizational system and I really like the way you explained every single detail of it.


  3. I love SO many things about this! I've always assigned my students roles for our book club discussion days, but I like the idea of giving them the freedom to respond however best fits their learning style and preferences. Duh! What a fabulous idea!

    Do you meet with students individually or in groups? Is it on a rotational basis or random? What is "Cloud" information?

    1. Hi~I meet with them individually on a rotating schedule. For example I always meet with the same 4 kids each day, but they wait their turn for their conferences. Does this make sense? Also, silly me...I say it so much that I guess I assume everyone knows. :) Cloud information is things like the title, date, page numbers, etc. We call it the cloud because it is the space at the top with no lines. ;) Let me know if you have any other questions. :)

  4. I LOVE, LOVE this post! Thank you for all the great details you provided, Brandee! Your check out system is so organized. I am a little jealous that you are able to teach three ELA classes and really focus on that. Teaching four subjects daily is draining and there is never enough wall space to devote to all of them! My library checkout system is still a work in progress and we (my students are helping:) are working on a getting a digital system set up. We'll see how that goes:)
    I also love how you conference with your students about their reading and use the simple rubric. I focus more on writing (more of a weakness in 4th grade) during my conferences because I just don't have enough time for reading conferences after just a couple in the fall! I see 23 students for ELA everyday for 80 minutes and to get it all in is quite the task. I am curious how much time you have with your three sections and how you fit it all in. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise!!
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  5. Lots of great information, Brandee! I love how you and your students celebrate books and book talk!
    Conversations in Literacy

  6. So delighted to find a kindred spirit, Brandee! My checkout system is a little different from yours, but I also expect kids to journal three times a week. I gave them a sheet with 24 different responses on it that I created, and then they can use whichever one they want. They just need to put the question # in their journal, along with the title, author, etc.

    We can't teach kids to love reading if we don't give them time to read! So, other things might get pushed back, but I think it's worth it in the grand scheme of things. Kids love to talk about books, and they love to help their classmates find books that are a good fit. We just need to create the space to do all of that! Good for you for doing that!

  7. Another awesome post! Thank you!

    I LOVE Confer as well! I use it all the time and can't imagine conferencing without it.

    On your Book Talk rubric, I'm curious as to what "Cloud" information is...did I miss something? :)

    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

  8. Great organization, Brandee. I love the fact that with all of the technology that you use (and love), sometimes the old faithful plan works best :) Thanks for linking up!


    Fun in Room 4B

  9. You must have an amazing library! I like how visual your book check out system is. Thanks for being so detailed about how you run your reading conferences. I am just introducing book talks to my class so I appreciate your post and how you highlight the importance of talking about books and encouraging a love of reading! Awesome post.

  10. I also teach fifth grade ELA. I love your checkout system!

    Fifth in the Middle

  11. Wow!! I am in awe over your system!!! Thank you for linking up, I have learned so much from this :)

  12. I am bookmarking this to come back and read in detail when I have time. Thank you!! :)

    Literacy Spark

  13. Thanks so much for linking up! I love that your main focus is to encourage them to read and love reading. It's so important!
    ideas by jivey
    Follow Me On Facebook! :)

  14. What a fantastic post always! I don't have a book check out system-I am referred to as the second media center with all my books-I know I couldn't keep up with it. I love the "having a plan" piece of your procedures. I need to do a better job of having my students keep track of the books they plan to read in the future.
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  15. This is an absolutely amazing idea! I've been trying to figure out how to do classroom checkouts without all of the chaos/headaches. I think I'll be giving this a look for next year. Thank you!

  16. This is a great and simple way to keep track of who has what books. I love that it is all done by the students. I love that you offer your students choice in how they respond. I am pinning this post, so that I can find it when I begin planning this summer. As always, thank you for the informative post!

    Foreman Teaches

  17. LOVE, love, LOVE this idea!


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