Here's another fun idea that I picked up at the 2009 Eastern Virginia Writing Project. You will need chalk and a blackboard or dry-erase markers and a white board. Get ready for peace and quiet. Yep.
Think of a question or topic. Write this in the middle of the board. For example, you may write, "What did you read this summer?" Students may respond to this question by writing on the board...silently. The idea is to replicate short conversations on the board in a piggyback web format. Someone may write the title of a book that someone else also read. That person may write a comment underneath like, "Me too! Loved it." Perhaps the book made it to film. "Saw the movie on t.v." "Wish I could have been in that film."
Someone may write down that they read the comics, cereal boxes, closed-captions, cd liner notes, movie reviews, magazines, the sports page, the back of library books... Hopefully they will also include several on-line sources for news and information. When it comes to reading, hopefully they will recognize the value of a balanced diet. There's more to reading than books alone. Also, it's okay to write negative comments. You just don't want the conversations to deteriorate into angry rants or personal attacks. For example, someone may write The Hobbit. Someone else may write, "Tried it. Kept falling asleep on page 1."
For this activity, some students will be self-conscious regarding their spelling abilities. If you have a classroom computer, you can open up a new word processing document for students to check the spelling of words they are unsure of. Do your best to encourage mass participation. Having multiple writing utensils will help because then several students will be writing at the same time. No one is alone in the spotlight.
Also, if this is your students' first chalk talk, the first week of school or first period, you may want them to respond to the prompt by first making a list in their journals. This will help get the ideas flowing before they share them with their peers.
I think it's best to stay out of the way for this activity once it gets rolling. Just stand at the back of the room and enjoy.