Book Talks When the Teacher is Out

An inevitable reality of teaching is that sometimes the teacher has to be absent. It’s part of life, so I refuse to feel guilty about it.


When I can plan ahead for my absences, I ensure that students are working on something which puts learning at the forefront, rather than having a “let’s take advantage of this poor substitute teacher” situation. That eases the guilt a bit.

Next month, I will attend the Adolescent Literacy Summit and I’m super-excited to learn from some amazing presenters. However, I’ll be missing three days of classes, and I want my students to be doing something worth-while and that helps them move forward with the development of their reading lives.

I’ve planned countless lessons over the years, so I’m not worried about the “lesson” part of the classes that I’ll be missing.

But this book talk habit is a new one.

It’s harder to plan for when I’m not there.

And book talks are an essential part of readers workshop. Kids need to get excited about new books every day!

That’s the situation I’m facing, and I’m exploring some solutions.

One of my ideas is student-led book talks. Every single one of my students gave a book talk last semester, so they have experience both as being part of an active audience and as book presenter. Some of my students have expressed to me that they would like to get back up in front of the groups in order to share some of the new books they are excited about. This could work for some of my classes, so I’ll probably check in with them and ask for volunteers.

Because I’ll be out for three days, I’ll need some more ideas.

I am thinking I might ask my students to do a clean-up of their next reads lists. Kids can take a look at the titles that have been on their lists for months, evaluate whether they are titles they are still interested in, and then remove as needed. While it’s not technically a book talk, I think it still falls into the book talk category, as they add to these lists regularly as a result of book talks. I think it’s safe to guess that some of the titles on their lists were impulsive and could possibly be removed or reorganized. It’s a good time for some authentic, practical reflection.

My last idea is to gather a list of book lists and post them for the students to explore. I found this one curated by BBC: Ten Books You Should Read in February, and it looks pretty good.

Since we are a Design Thinking school, it’s important to encourage empathy. I came across this list that I might share with my classes.

The tool for lists that really excites me is this one from NPR. I can use filters to curate my own lists based on the books that NPR has already chosen as being worth checking out. I like this one that just uses the YA filter, but I haven’t fully realized the potential of this tool. I’ll play around with it so that I can have a great list for each of my classes. I think I’m going to be adding to my own next reads list, too.

Maybe students could even curate lists and share them with each other.

How do you book talk when you aren’t in the classroom? I’m new at this, so I’m eager to hear ideas.


Author: adventuresinhighschoolworkshop

Julie has been teaching secondary language arts for nineteen years, spending the first fifteen in rural Central Oregon, four in Amman, Jordan, and is currently in her second year teaching in Managua, Nicaragua.

3 thoughts on “Book Talks When the Teacher is Out”

  1. How often do you read nonfiction?

    I really enjoy it because it allows me to learn the lessons that successful people learned the hard way, from the comfort of where ever I might be reading.

    If you are interested in the nonfiction I have been reading, or if you want to know what the benefits are from reading this genre in specific, please stop by my page. I post book reviews over biographies, classics, and inspiring nonfiction.


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