Simple Tips for Starting Book Talks in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Simple Tips for Starting Book Talks in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Looking for a high interest, simple, yet meaningful way to kick off summer reading? Try having book talks!


There is nothing more powerful to help turn students into readers, than student to student book recommendations!


As teachers, we are always reading and recommending books to our students. We organize our library, display popular books, and share read-aloud books to hook our students. But what kids rely on most of all when it comes to picking up a book to read, is a recommendation from a peer.


This is because reading is contagious!


We all know those books and series. The ones that the kids flock to! Each year it may be a new series, but once one book is read by one student or during a read aloud, you can bet that all kids will want to read that book, that series, and more from "that author" that all the kids are talking about!


One way to encourage positive and meaningful discourse about high-quality books is to start using book talks in your classroom.  Book talks are not structured like a book report. The goal of a book talk is to get others excited to read the book that is being shared. The excitement that a student has about a book or series will engage and interest readers of all levels in your classroom.



So what is a book talk?

A book talk is a structured time in your day for students to share and talk about the books that they are reading. Through the students' short oral presentation, they are trying to sell or persuade their peers to read the book. This means that the students are combining their reading, opinion, and persuasive skills in one short assignment. Yay! #teacherwin




Simple Tips for Starting Book Talks in the Upper Elementary Classroom



Benefits of Book Talks

By bringing books talks into your classroom you are encouraging your students to:


  • Read a variety of books, genres, and authors throughout the year
  • Recommend books to friends
  • Engage in meaningful discourse about books
  • Practice persuasive writing skills
  • Increase speaking and listening skills
  • Participate in group discussions regularly and appropriately
  • Prepare, practice, and deliver a presentation


In addition, students have fun!  They really get into our weekly book talks and can not wait to hear what their peers have to share. Over the many years that I have used weekly book talks, I have seen friendships blossom and nonreaders love books! There are so many benefits to include book talks into your weekly plans.



The How-To of Book Talks


There is no right or wrong way for students to give a book talk! I love using templates so that students can stay on track, focused, and have a guide of what to talk about, especially when they are first beginning to give a book talk. 


While the templates I use are mostly open-ended to allow students to bring up the positive points of the book, the prompts do help all readers stay focused, especially struggling readers and shy students. I use different templates for fiction, nonfiction, and series books.


digital book talk templates for upper elementary



When first introducing book talks in my classroom I make sure to explain what a book talk is, what should be included, and what should NOT be included. I also model how to give a book talk with a book that we have already read together as a class. We set the timer to decide on how long our class book talks should be.


I have students follow these guidelines when giving their own book talks:

  • Select a book that you have finished reading and loved.
  • Be sure to know a lot about the book so that you can recommend it to a classmate.
  • Complete a book talk page that includes the title, author, and book genre.
  • Follow specific prompts that I have included in my template page to keep them focused.
  • Include book-specific information about the characters, favorite events, memorable parts, problems the characters faced, facts learned in a NF book, repeated themes in series or books by the same author.
  • Share a favorite quote from the book.
  • Go beyond the words and share adjectives to describe the setting, plot, or favorite characters.
  • Explain WHY your classmates should read the book.
  • Tell about the book to get others HOOKED, but do NOT give away too much or share the ending in any way.


We also talk about how to present and keep their audience engaged. I share these tips:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Speak with a clear and slow voice.
  • Be enthusiastic to "sell the book."
  • Refer to notes or template used, but do not read word for word.
  • Answer any questions your audience may have following your presentation.


Excited to try out book talks in your classroom? Grab the templates I use HERE or use the tips below to create your own templates for your students to use.

Create your own template with these tips:

  • Think about a skill or strategy you want to reinforce (like character traits)
  • What type of books are students presenting on (fiction, NF, series)
  • What questions  you want them to answer (Why are you recommending this book?)



Organizing a Book Talk Schedule


You might be thinking that this is just one more thing to fit in your day! I get it and hear you! However, the benefits of using book talks in your classroom are worth the time that you use to teach students how to hold a book and to actually hold book talks!


When starting book talks, you can assign book talks for all students to complete once a month or allow students to volunteer and sign up to share. Spread the presentations out throughout the month or have a few students share once a week. I have always used Fridays as our book talk day. Having one consistent day of the week for book talks allows students to prepare ahead of time and it also gives your students something to look forward to each week!



Not sure when to fit book talks in? Try these times:


  • following morning work or morning meeting
  • during snack
  • at the end of the day
  • to kick-off or wrap up your reading block


If you are sharing during classroom time, you can share the students' completed slides in front of the class and invite that student to come to the front of the room to share. If you are sharing virtually via ZOOM or another platform, have students share their completed work with you and then you can share your screen while allowing only the presenter to speak.



When I think of book talks in my classroom, I think of this powerful quote about reading. Nothing brings students more joy about books than a recommendation from a friend and talking about books with their peers. Book talks truly allow more time to introduce children to quality books that they will want to read.




teacher quote about reading





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Simple Tips for Starting Book Talks in the Upper Elementary Classroom



Are you looking for engaging ways to get students talking in meaningful ways about the books that they are reading? These digital book talks are perfect for in-class learning and remote learning, too!




book talk templates for classroom or virtual learning






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