This video is part of the teacher tip series, “How to Create Book Hype,” wherein I discuss how to increase the love around choice reading by doing Book Speed Dating in class with your students. This activity can be modified for at any grade level, even though we compare it to the high school dating scene of checkin’ out potential love interests. I generally do this activity on the first day of a new class, mostly as a way to introduce students to my classroom library and choice reading expectations.
Q: How do I get my students started?
A: Since this activity works no matter the size of your classroom library, you can start in a couple different ways. If your library is still growing or you want them to speed date with a specific genre/topic, I’d begin by pulling all of the books off the shelves and arranging the desks in a circle. Personally, I like to use this structure when we’re beginning a new history unit or after we’ve received a recently fulfilled Donors Choose project. If I want them to speed date with all of the books, like on the first day of class, I have the kids pull books themselves, but I ask them to grab a specific blend of genres.
Q: Other than books, what do they need to speed date?
A: Anytime my students are speed dating (or participating in any kind of book talk, for that matter), they take out their To-Read Lists. I have these pre-printed and always up-for-grabs in my classroom, so if a kid fills their list, they can get a new one independent of me. My To-Read List provides space for students to quickly jot down the title, author, genre, and basic story-line gist. This helps kids find books that we previously talked about. I don’t know about your students, but mine continuously say, “Mrs. Beaton, what’s the name of that one book you told us about a few weeks ago? You know, that one where <insert vague comment here>.” This also falls under Donalyn Miller‘s Reading in the Wild idea about teaching kids to always have a reading plan. It’s great when you’re conferring with kids and ask what they’re planning to read next, and they respond by saying, “Oh! I’ve got like five good things on my To-Read list!”
Q: What does Book Speed Dating look like in action?
A: Once students have a book stack in front of them, we do a mini-lesson on how to flirt with a book by checking out the body of the book: the cover, awards, author blurbs, copyright page summary, etc. At this, without fail, my high schoolers start joking about “how good the backside looks” on each book.
From there, it becomes a free-for-all. Students either work through their self-collected stacks or start passing the books around the circle. Some kids either know their tastes so well or are stuck in a reading rut that they super-speed date. My students often tease these kids saying they have “commitment issues.”
Generally, the pass-around starts to slow down when kids find titles they don’t want to share. The goal isn’t necessarily to get through all the books but to increase the exposure to titles they might not randomly grab off the shelves on their own. We always save time to not only talk about those “love at first sight” titles and our “potential future relationships” but also to re-shelve the books.