To get my students excited about reading over the holiday break, I plan a book swap. I tell students to bring in a book that they enjoyed, but no longer need, to swap with a friend. In the days leading up to the book swap, I prepare the boys and girls by sharing my expectations for the swap.
Students will have to share the title and genre, introduce the protagonist, and give a little preview of the plot, without spoiling the ending. (This is the most difficult part.)
My friend and mentor, literacy consultant, Carol Varsalona taught me a great way to get students to summarize plot in a one-sentence gist. "___________ wanted _______________, but ________________, so __________." For example, for the book, The Egypt Game, students would say, "April wanted to be with her mother, but her mother sent her away, so now she must live with a grandmother she hardly knows and make new friends."
By requiring students to speak about their book using grade-appropriate vocabulary such as genre and protagonist, and by having them craft a summary of the plot that doesn't include any spoilers, students are applying what we have learned in class since September. They are engaging in accountable talk, with me walking around the room, listening in and making sure everyone is on-task.
I end with an exit card on which students respond to questions about the book swap, rate their experience, and even offer additional comments. I've gotten great feedback from the students, but perhaps the greatest affirmation came from a colleague who said to me, "The kids are talking about the books and trying to convince their friends to swap with them in my homeroom." Oops!
Anyway, if you're thinking of doing this with your students, I offer the following tips:
1. Introduce the book swap idea early and remind students every day about bringing in a book.
2. Offer extra credit to students who bring in extra books. (You'll need them for the students who
inevitably forget to bring in their own book to swap.)
3. Model your own book talk with enthusiasm. Remember, you are trying to convince someone to
trade with you.
My students have enjoyed this activity, and a colleague who tried it with her special-ed students said they really loved it, too. As a result of the book swap, every student goes home with a new (to them) book to read over the holiday break, and hopefully, some peer-inspired motivation to read.
Happy holiday reading,