After losing days of school due to snow, I’m in a familiar we’re-never-going-to-get-everything-done panic. I feel this way every winter. The fact is this: none of us have enough time with our students. We constantly feel the pull of more-to-do; we live in the tension of what we have to teach and what we want to teach.
Any time I can double-down and achieve two goals simultaneously, I get excited.
Though I am ashamed to admit this, the truth is that book talks are one of the things that frequently gets brushed to the bottom of the pile in my classroom. I know that they are important, and I am committed to growing readers in addition to growing writers, but if I need just five more minutes during class, the book talk is most often the item that gets cut.
Recently, I have been trying to find ways to streamline book talks so that they happen more seamlessly in my classroom. It hit me: a mentor text can be a little book talk! If I can be more intentional here, I can achieve a few important instructional moments at the same time:
- inspire and improve students’ writing through the use of mentor texts
- entice students to expand their reading horizons into new topics, new genres, new writers
- highlight the symbiotic connection between students’ reading lives and their writing lives
Since I work hard to find engaging mentor texts, I want to build on that momentum and propel them into future reading. Here’s how I do it — on the bottom of each mentor text in our mentor text cluster, I add an image (of the book cover, the website logo, the author) and a little blurb. For a novel, it might be a short summary or teaser enticing readers to pick up the book and continue reading. For a poem, I might add some author biography. For an editorial or other non-fiction writing, I might include a little information about the writer, other recent articles by that writer that might interest the students, or topics that writer frequents. My goal is simple: I want students to keep reading and to read new things.
Sometimes I will stop, draw students’ attention to the book talk blurb at the bottom of the mentor text, and chat a bit. Other times, I just leave it for them to read when they are ready. These built-in book talks don’t replace traditional book talk, but they add another opportunity to extend students’ reading and yet another level of meaning to mentor texts in our classroom.