The Blurb on the Back

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SWBAT use the blurb on the back of their book to guide partner talk about the main characters and their issues.

Big Idea

Readers set themselves up for success by reading and talking about their blurbs

My Lens

Today I am going to introduce Hound Dog True our mentor text for this unit by reading the title and blurb.

I am slowing down and really zooming in on how the title and blurb on the back helps a reader pick a good fit book.  Many students in Room 14 are partially proficient at independently picking an appropriate book that matches their interests and reading levels at this point in the year. The second point I want to drill down on is the fact that the blurb sets you up for success in understanding what the book is all about.


10 minutes

I'll ask the students to bring their books to the rug for the active engagement part of the lesson, but for now they can set them down in front of them.

"Students, I have such a wonderful surprise for you.  Tomorrow we start the novel Hound Dog True.  A hound dog is a dog that looks like this- show Hound Dog True slide show.  I ask the students to turn and talk about what are some possible meanings the title Hound Dog True?"   I listen in to partnerships and ask several to share.  It was brought out that maybe it is a book about loyalty.  

"Titles of books are super important. Authors think and think about what should they title their books.  Turn and talk why do you think titles  are important?"

"So,  students the title is important and the blurb is important too.  Book publishers make sure the blurb is a really good place to get information about the story- because it's the cover, title and blurb that catches the reader's attention.  Today I am going to teach you how to get information from the blurb by reading it and then turning and talking about your blurb with your partner.

Watch me as I do a demo for you using Hound Dog True."

 Next,  I put the "Hound Dog True" blurb under doc camera and read it.  "OK students your turn, turn and talk what information is in the blurb?"  Listen in and then elicit ideas.  Chart the ideas students bring up about Hound Dog True as kids share them.  "Wow, I can't wait to begin this book!"  Do you see how the blurb is like a really good commercial for a TV show or movie?

Active Engagement:  "Now I want you to practice getting information about your novel from the blurb.  First, take a couple minutes to read it". ( wait...wait...)

"And when I give the signal I want you to talk with your partner about what you learned from the blurb.  Partners A go first."

Listen in....  "Switch, now partner B share the information you got from the blurb".  Listen in.

Coach partnerships as needed.  Ask students ahead of time if they would be willing to share their partners ideas.  Have at least three partnerships share about the information they got from their blurbs.. (think of it as a mini best sellers talk)

Link and close the mini-lesson by saying," Readers, the blurb on the back is such a great place to get information and a overview of the characters and issues in your book.  Remember to let the blurb guide your reading.  It is time for you to go to your just right reading spot and independently read.  Some of you might be shopping, too. I know you'll read the title and the blurb, right?"

You read the blurb for two reasons:  one, to see if this sounds like a good book and two, the blurb helps you know what to expect as you are reading- so it realyy helps you with understanding the book.  You can choose to write a post-it about your blurb today if you are just starting a new book..  Capture the title, who, what, and problems.  Here is an example Post-it note using the blurb from Hound Dog True. 

Independent Reading

35 minutes

Say, "Students, before you dive into your books for independent reading, please reread your blurb.  It has lots of important information about the plot of the book packed into it.  The reason I want you to reread it is because it tells you ahead of time what to be expecting in the book.  The blurb really guides your comprehension.  Just like a map helps you get to your destination, the blurb alerts you to turns and twists in the story.  It helps you understand the plot of the story.  And for those of you starting a new book today, I want you to practice the strategy of writing a post-it from the blurb.  It will look something like this:  (Show blurb from From the Files of Madison Finn. ) I will be checking with you in a few minutes."  Announce what group will be staying at the rug for a strategy lesson. Then, release the rest of the students for independent reading.

I will keep strategy group #1  at the rug.  This is a group of 4 girls who need comprehension support.  I am helping them determine if they have picked a book at their level, showing them how the blurb will support their comprehension because it sets the reader up with important information such as important characters and the plot, and teaching them how to extract information by synthesizing across the blurb.  I have prepared two different sets of post-its from two books I think will appeal to them.They will have everything they need for a quick group check in: their book, reading logs, reading response notebook, post-its, and pencil.  

Say, "You read the blurb for two reasons:  One, to see if this sounds like a good book and two, the blurb helps you know what to expect as you are reading- so it really helps you with understanding the book.

 Say, "Students, read the blurb on the back of your book and be ready to talk about what is happening/ or what you expect is going to happen in your book based on what the blurb says.  Watch students reading their blurbs.  Give them a few minutes to figure out tricky words and to synthesize the information.  If some finish quickly, say, "Jot down what you expect from this book based on the blurb."  If students look at you funny say..Look for evidence in the blurb relating to: Who? What?  Problems? Struggles? Plot? Demonstrate the strategy by reading the blurb from The Dragon Princess and showing students the post-it. As students get busy writing, use this time to have a student read their book blurb to you.  I am looking to see the student is matched to a book they can comprehend. Many times in my classroom, I have students who want to read books that are too hard for them.  As they read the blurb, I'm informally assessing them.  I hear and notice their decoding skills, fluency, and how they put ideas together from this short reading.  After the students has read, I do one of several things,  if the student is in a good fit book- I say great- as you are reading post-it important ideas and events that happen to your character, and send them to their seat to read.  I then listen to another student read.  I will also check on the students who where writing their post-its.  I look for students who are copying the back.  If they copy the back it is a red flag for me.  It means they are not extracting meaning and big ideas from the blurb and the book is probably too hard for them.  I listen to the "copiers" read the blurb.  My goal is to get as many students matched to books as quick as possible.  If I have 3-4 students in too hard of  books, I will suggest some titles at their level from my basket of M/N/O/P books.   What I find works really well is to encourage students to pick the same book to read.  I will read the blurb to them to build excitement and have them stay on the rug and read orally with a partner in this new well-chosen book.  I say, "You have 15 minutes to learn as much as you can about your characters and what's happening in this book.  I will be back to have you tell me about what is happening in a few minutes.

Spend the last 20 minutes of independent reading conferring with individual students who are sitting at their desks reading.  Check on their post its.  See if they are capturing important elements of the plot.  Carry around the book From the Files of Madison Finn with the blurb post-it to use as mini-demo if students need extra support.

"Best Sellers" Book Talk

Recenty, a student completed the assignment of "Best Sellers" Book talk on an Encyclopedia Brown book. She showed her poster, read her persuasive essay on why you should read it, and read an excerpt from the book all without ever reading the book!.  She got everything from the blurb. I remembered when she picked the book in the library- and then the next day she had switched books and was reading something else.  I asked her about it and she said something to the effect, "yah, I decided I didn't really want to read the book, after all. So  a few days later when I was asking for volunteers to present she wildly raised her hand and wanted to be one of the four to present.

I let her present knowing that she hadn't read the book.  But now I'm thinking what a wonderful story to share with my students.  I will frame it by saying that "A few years ago I had this student who was able to give the best booktalks without reading the books.  And do you know how she did it? She based everything off the blurb.

I will go on to say that I'm not telling you this so you will skip reading....when you share a best seller book...we always share books that we love and have read.  I'm telling you this to prove my point that the blurb has a ton of information packed in it.  So read them when you are looking for a good book.