What makes us want to read on? Students make a pitch for their next class book.
Linda asked me to to share the process for this project, so here goes.
I’ve had great fun helping English class students choose books to either read independently or to read as a class. We’ve done plenty of book tastings and book talks, but this time we tried something different: the book pitch. I worked with our fantastic 6th grade English teacher, Justin (hi, Justin!), to create a one-day activity for his students to select their next class read. We decided to do a Book Pitch. Here’s how it worked:
- We started with a discussion about what we say when we want to get a friend to read a book we love. This led us to an exploration of plot (and spoilers!), characters, and genre. What might we say about a book to make someone else want to read it?
- Then students were put into small groups. A group at a time, they visited a table full of middle-grade and young YA titles that I had pre-selected for them. We had about 30 books for our 7 girls.
- Once back in their groups, the students each took a few minutes to read. They read the first few pages of the book, looked at any illustrations, and read the jacket/flap copy. Then they had to agree on which book they wanted to pitch.
- Some students switched to other groups so that they could be with those who agreed with their picks. So in once case, one member wanted to read historical fiction and the other two members didn’t. She traded places to be with another group who liked historical fiction. Before this happened, Justin and I were a little nervous about the small groups coming to consensus, but this was a great solution and an element of the project that I would build into it in the future.
- Once they’d determined their book, the students spent some time researching the book. They read reviews and synopses, looked up any awards it had one, and watched book/movie adaptation trailers.
- They then had about 15 minutes to build a quick Google Slides presentation with the goal of convincing the others in the class to vote for their book for class read. Here’s the handout Justin created to guide this process:
In your small groups you’ve considered a number of books. Now that you’ve decided upon one book that you think the class should read next,it’s time to come up with a ‘pitch’ to try and persuade your classmates to vote for it.
Important elements to consider for your pitch:
1) How are you going to present your ideas: Google slides? A pitch without slides? Handouts? Another way?
2) How much of the plot are you going to share? What appeals to you about this book and its plot? Will these things or other things appeal to your classmates?
3 ) Do you want to share a short excerpt of the book as a handout, or read a quotation from the book aloud?
4) Focus on putting together a short, focused and clear presentation that is convincing.
All of the students chose to use Google Slides, probably because it was easiest/fastest. Some read excerpts (and some were more compelling than others), some shared illustrations, and all of them described elements of the plot and either the positive reviews the book had received or awards it had won.
Group 1 chose to pitch Fly Girl by Sherri L. Smith. This was our historical-fiction-loving group.
Group 2 immediately chose to pitch A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. (They chose it over She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgewick. They were pulled in by the drawings.)
And Group 3 chose The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.
After the groups made their pitches, the class voted. There was a tie between The Westing Game and A Monster Calls (we had a visitor to our class, who helped with the activity and also voted), so then we did a tiebreaker vote and A Monster Calls won. This was interesting because that group only had two members, while the other groups had three. They must have done a good job convincing their classmates!
For next time…
I think Justin and I will find a better way to have the groups decide on a book to pitch, or find some way for students to self-identify with a book and form their own groups. This can be hard with such a small class. It’s also hard because everyone feels so attached to their own books. I’d like to build an activity that helps them consider options other than the books their group pitched. Perhaps we could make a score sheet or handout that would help. Or, if there was more time for the project, we could have all the students do a book talk.
This was a fun and relatively easy one-class activity. We planned it on a Thursday and introduced it the following morning. The students now feel invested in their next class read, and they have a taste of what’s to come in the story. Plus, the students whose books were not selected got to check them out and take them home. Everyone wins!