Try a fresh spin on the tired book report assignment and use “book talks” instead. A book talk is just an informal conversation with the student wherein I determine whether the student actually read the book. No more speeches, no more poster boards, no more fatigue. As the kid talks about the plot, I flip through the pages of his book and ask about specific characters or scenes. I also like to read a small bit aloud to the student and have him tell me what happens next in the chapter. As he’s talking, it’s easy to look through the next few pages and see if he’s right.

It’s awesome not to have a stack of book reports to grade at the end of each term, but my favorite part of this assignment is the one-on-one time it allows me to spend with each student. Even if the book talk is only two or three minutes, I find it helps to build connections with kids (most of my classes have 35-36 students) that I wouldn’t otherwise have time to make. It’s also a nice pocket of time to talk about books (one of my favorite subjects) and help struggling students find titles that will hold their interest.

Give it a try for one quarter and see how it works for you. Less to grade. More fun for all. I mean, S.S.R. is supposed to be a fun time, right? My teens really respond well to not having to build yet another poster board or collage. Some years, they’ve actually cheered when I introduced the assignment.

Tracking page-counts for students is super-simple, too. Just use the tally sheet for each student and jot down the titles and page-counts of successfully reported books. At the end of each quarter, add up the pages, consult the sliding scale, and – bam! – enter the grade. You’re done. It takes me less than five minutes to figure and record the grades.

Click here for a free copy of student handouts and tally sheets. Hope you like this approach to managing your S.S.R. tasks.

Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. […] I am trying Student-Selected Reading this school year, thanks to Laura Randazzo’s amazing ideas. As she suggests, I am carving out time for SSR and then meeting my students in one-on-one book […]


  2. […] year, after doing some research and reading a great post by Laura Randazzo, I decided to implement Student-Selected Reading (SSR) in my classroom. I’ve […]


  3. I really want to try this next year, but I’m not 100% sure to go about it. I have 2 levels of 8th grade kids, Gen Ed and Honors. If a kid reads a 300 page book, that just counts for one book talk? If they read 2 200 page books, they do 2 book talks for the semester? I’m confused! Help!


  4. Hi Caiti,
    No worries. I always have to say it a few times before my students “get it,” too. 🙂 To get full credit for the quarter assignment, my gen. ed. kids need to successfully report 250 pages, while my honors kids must hit the 500 page mark. I’ll just talk about gen. ed. kids for the rest of this note and you can double the pages when thinking about your honors classes.

    Toward the end of the 1st qtr., a student will need to have successfully book talked 250 pages’ worth of SSR book/s to me. If he successfully reports on a 300-page book, he’ll earn a full 100 pts. on the 1st qtr. assignment and have 50 pages rollover in his book bank account, so to speak, for 2nd qtr. If he reads a 200-page book, he’ll book talk that one as soon as he’s done but then also need to book talk another book before the 1st qtr. deadline. If he gives me another 200-page book in the 1st qtr., he then has built 400 pages in his account. On the deadline day, I’ll take 250 of his 400 pages for the 100-pt. assignment, and he’ll have 150 pages of credit rolling over into his 2nd qtr. tally.

    Some of my eager readers are actually able to get their book talks done for the entire year (250 pgs. x 4 quarters = 1,000 pages) before winter break and then they have a book with them to read every Friday for the rest of the year (they still need to earn the 10 pts. for weekly reading) but no longer have to see me for Book Talks. Sweet, right?

    Hope this helps clarify things. I know there’s a lot to wrap our heads around with this one, but it’s worth it! 🙂


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