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March Challenge: Creating a Video Booktalk

With many schools worldwide closing due to the coronavirus threat, I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate the March Challenge to keeping the library front-and-center for our students. In the event that your school goes online temporarily, how will you support your students and teachers?

The March Challenge focuses on keeping our students reading for pleasure. If schools are forced to close, students will be confined to their homes for long periods of time. Self-quarantine means they cannot see their friends, and they may not even be able to play outside.

They will, however, have plenty of time to read!

This month, I’m challenging you to create one video booktalk to post to your school or library website, YouTube, Instagram, or other social media outlet your library might use. Yes, I know this may take some of you outside your comfort zone, but it’s actually not that hard once you try it.

Step One: Practice

A few months before I ever started doing Facebook Lives, I started doing video booktalks. I didn’t post any of these anywhere online. They were simply a way for me to organize my thoughts before writing a more formal book review on my blog. Over time, I got more and more comfortable with creating them, and my communication became more natural and relaxed.

If creating a video booktalk sounds scary to you, try recording some on your phone. You don’t have to post any of these online, and your students never have to see them. But they will help you become more comfortable in front of the camera.

Step Two: Plan, but just a little.

Think about what you want to say before you start. You’ll want to include certain important information about the book such as

  • title
  • author
  • publication date
  • short summary
  • what you liked
  • what you didn’t like
  • readalikes
  • who you recommend this for
  • where students can find the book

The biggest and best advice I can give you is this: Do not overplan. It takes too much time, and it may just make you more nervous. I don’t even plan a certain day or time to record my personal booktalk videos. I’ll just go for a walk and happen to have my phone and voila! Suddenly, I’m recording!

Step Three: Just do it.

Remember that you do not have to post anything you are not happy with. But even just recording one 2-minute booktalk is a huge first step. You’ll see that it isn’t actually as painful as you thought it would be.

Once you make that first short booktalk video, you’ve ripped off the Band-Aid. Congratulations!

Step Four: Skip the perfection.

One of the reasons I really like doing Facebook Live videos is that I cannot possibly be a perfectionist. I’ve recorded FB Lives where all kinds of things can and do happen in the background. There has been construction, my dogs barking, my ayi vacuuming in the hall, my video starting before I expect it to, screenshare fails, internet issues, a cameo from my husband who didn’t know he was on the video…

The point is, I know my FB Lives will have the potential for all kinds of weirdness. If I were recording the videos first, I would have the urge to stop the video when the dogs bark. I would stop to fix the screenshare fails. I would re-record video where I didn’t like the way I stumbled over my words or said something I wish I had said in a different way.

Doing the videos live forces me to NOT be a perfectionist. I can’t go back and correct the embarrassing faux-pas that happen, and that’s a good thing. This was the problem when I was podcasting; I was too focused on it being perfect. I spent more time writing what I would say and editing the podcast than I did on creating new content. My podcast only has 12 episodes because I simply could not keep up with the amount of work it required to “make it perfect.”

Step Five:

Once you have the video the way you want it, upload it to whatever platform you plan to use. Some schools will prescribe this, and others will not. Examples might include YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, your library website, Moodle, Edublogs, WordPress, Blogger, Vimeo, TeacherTube, Google Hangouts, and many, many others.

Step Six:

Share the video with your students. Use whatever communication platform your school uses to get the word out.

Step Seven:

Create more video booktalks! Play with the format. For this challenge, it’s just a simple video, but you can use programs like Zoom to share longer PowerPoint booktalks and other how-to videos.

Step Eight:

Encourage yours students to create video booktalks! I’ve got a rubric freebie this month to help get you started.

A few tips:

  • If you are not in the same location as your students, be mindful that your students may be cooped up indoors for long periods of time. Think twice before you record from the beach or poolside.
  • Dress as you would normally dress for school, at least for your top-half. Your students are used to seeing you present yourself in a certain way, and it may make some students uncomfortable to see you suddenly sans makeup and wearing a tank top.
  • Pets! Kids love them! Feel free to show them off in your videos.
  • If posting to Instagram or Twitter, create a hashtag for your booktalks so your students can find them easily. If your students are also creating video booktalks, encourage them to use the hashtag, too.


The March Challenge Freebie

Create a Video Booktalk (student version)

You don’t have to be the only ones creating video booktalks! Let your students join in the fun, too! The March Freebie includes printable and editable student directions, a peer-review rubric, and a PowerPoint introduction for students.

I designed this product specifically to help schools facing closure due to the coronavirus. Anyone can use it, of course, but I’m really hoping my “online learning” colleagues around the world will find it helpful.

This product is FREE for the month of March 2020.

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