Before students arrive, I use their book talk flyers (created earlier in the week) to set up the groups. I really tried to mix the groups so that 1. There were no groups with two students who were “book talking” the same book; 2. There were at least two boys in each group (since boys often will not read a book if they perceive it to be a “girl” book; and 3. Groups of friends were separated, since they often read the same books (so, while it’s great that they pass books around and share enthusiasm for the same series, etc., they don’t benefit from being together for the book talks.)
So, when students arrived, they were instructed to find their flyers and sit wherever they find them. I also gave every student a Post-It note so they could write down the book title that they are most interested in reading and why.
My classroom is pretty small, so I have to push five and six desks together to form groups. If I had my choice, I would set up the book talks like “speed dating” where students are in lines, facing each other, and they talk for two minutes and then bump down a seat. I like that idea because it incorporates movement for the kids, too. But, it just doesn’t work in my classroom, so I would have to make special arrangements for space (another time, maybe.)
I had the kids figure out who was the oldest one in their group and I had that person go first. Then, they were to rotate clockwise until everyone had a chance to talk. I circulated and listened to each group. The kids did really well and it was a fun experience. Something I would do differently next time is consider using a stopwatch. I don’t like everything to feel so pressured and measured, but some of the students talked forever, and others really cut it short.
When the students finished a rotation, I did let them do another rotation with a group of their choice. I thought this would allow them to seek out people who might have read an interesting book, but it didn’t work that well. Whereas the first rotation was a success, the second one felt chaotic. (I took it out when my afternoon class came in.)
I really enjoyed this activity and would like to make it a regular thing. In the past when I have done book talks, I haven’t felt like the time was well spent. Perhaps now that they students are writing about their books, tracking their reading a little bit, and preparing the flyers ahead of time, they are better prepared.