By: Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Whooo’s Reading, a San Diego-based education organization that motivates students to read more every day. It’s available to teachers, schools and districts. Jessica grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and check out their new ebook, How to Bring Technology Into the Classroom.

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An important part of getting students to improve comprehension and enjoy reading is getting them to talk about the books they like and don’t like, whether it’s in a structured format or not. Book talks, or general reading discussions, help students:

  • Find new books to read—often student recommendations come out of these discussions.
  • Work through tough spots in plot or character development.
  • Share their opinions, helping them develop their own reading preferences.

With technology, students not only have more exciting formats for talking about their books, but are also more engaged, making the experience more memorable and therefore more valuable.

The following ideas and tech tools can be used in any classroom to motivate kids to talk about what they’re reading, both as a class and in small groups. Consider whether your students could benefit from some of these fun activities.

Make the Conversation More Interesting

Technology can make any lesson more interesting. In this case, it can make a reading discussion a lot more fun, by giving you extra resources to get the conversation started.

For example:

  • Use YouTube to show the movie-version of a specific book scene. The discussion is no longer, “What did you think of this scene?” Instead, it’s, “What was the difference between the movie scene and the book scene? How does that chance the arc of the story?”
  • Use a tool like MindMeister, mind-mapping software, to pull the story apart as a class. Then, break into small groups where students choose one piece of the mind map to discuss. Make it even more interesting by allowing each group to expand on their section within the mind map.

Gamify the Experience

Gamification works for a reason: A whopping 97 percent of kids play video games. When you bring gamification into the classroom, incorporating the things that young students are most attracted to—rewards, competition, social interactions—learning becomes more exciting and memorable.

This makes gamification a great way to get kids talking about their reading. Consider the following tools that make this possible:

  • Try a tool like Whooo’s Reading. This online reading log rewards students for “liking” and commenting on their peers’ reading responses. Whenever they interact they earn Wisdom Coins, which can be “spent” in the Owl Shop on accessories for their Owlvatar. Janice H., a Whooo’s Reading teacher, said: “My third graders love this program! They are not only motivated to read on their own, but are excited to talk about the books they are reading with their friends!”
  • Use Quizizz as a way to get the conversation started by asking a fun and engaging question. For example, “My favorite character from this book is….” Students who chose the same characters will then get together and discuss why they liked that character. Make it more engaging with a debate, where students defend their favorite character to the rest of the class.
  • Another fun tool is PollEverywhere. Use this in the same way you would use Quizizz, as a way to get the conversation started. Ask the class a question, like, “I would recommend this book to someone else—yes or no?” Have students choose their response and then talk about why they made that choice. Students will love seeing the poll displayed at the front of the room, and being able to make their choice in this interactive manner.

 

Bring the Discussion Online

Online discussion forums give every student a chance to talk, especially the ones that are too shy to do so in the classroom. Luckily, online discussion forums are easy to set up and facilitate, and also encourage the conversation to continue happening, long after you’ve left the classroom.

You can use a traditional discussion forum like ClassChatter, where the discussion happens in a thread, usually in response to a prompt—whether that be a question or written assignment. For example, “What parts of the story make it a romance novel? Explain.”

You could also use a less conventional tool like Twitter. The benefit of going this route is the novelty of it. Students will be excited to log into a Twitter account, use emojis, hashtags and more, which keeps them engaged longer. If you go this route, be sure to create a special hashtag for the discussion, such as #TheGiverClass226—this allows you (and your students) to filter the feed down to just that conversation.

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