Saturday, September 30, 2017

Our First Book Tasting Event

I have been seeing many teacher librarians talk about book tasting activities on social media over the past several months. With our specialized student focus on increasing interest in reading this year, book tasting is something I've wanted to try with our high school students. Just a few days ago, we attempted our first such event. It was a great success, and I will share the journey of its development in the paragraphs below.



Brainstorming

During lunch, we have been sharing the idea of a book tasting event with students for the past few weeks. I've been surprised at how many of them liked the idea. We began thinking that this could be an excellent service to provide teachers in their classrooms. Such book "catering" events could be a creative way to advertise our newly genrefied fiction section to teachers and students. For information on our genrefication process, please read Kaitlyn Price's (my teacher librarian colleague) blog article here.

Planning

There are always opportunities to reach teachers with library services. We merely have to actively seek such chances. That opportunity happened one afternoon when Mrs. Michelle Davis, one of our 10th grade ELA teachers, came to the library. We had just been talking about book tasting, and we told her about it. She was immediately interested in having us come to her class. We found a date and began talking about what it could look like.

Room Layout
The Event

Mrs. Davis decided to use 6 tables in her classroom set with a restaurant theme. We had battery powered candles, tablecloths, and a "Book Pass" form that my teacher library colleague, Kaitlyn Price, had previously used.   Mrs. Davis would greet students outside her door and hand them a "Book Pass" form (you can find this form on Kaitlyn's blog here). She also took time to describe the expectations of the day. The students spent 7 minutes at each table. We had at least 10 titles at each location. The genres she selected were Sci-Fi/ Fantasy, Action/ Adventure, Realistic Fiction/ Historical Fiction, Romance/ Biographies, Sports, and Mystery/ Suspense. The "Book Pass" form required students to list the Title/ Author, list their comments, list the genre, and provide a rating. This form also served as their exit ticket for class.

The "Chef" Makes a Visit
Kaitlyn and I would roll in a cart with the books after her introduction. We both wore aprons and carried the books to the tables as if we were servers in a restaurant. I used phrases like "Careful, these are hot", "I believe this table ordered Sci-Fi/ Fiction... excellent", and "This book is cooked medium rare for you, sir." The students seemed to enjoy the role play we provided. In the middle of the sessions, Ray Borel, one of our library assistants, would visit the class dressed as a chef. He used a French accent to interact and check on the students. During the last 6 minutes of class, we would return to check out books "to go." On the next day, all her classes came to the library to respond to a Google Form survey we created. You can view some of their responses in the Student Voice portion of this article below.

Teacher Reflection (Mrs. Michelle Davis)


The book tasting may be one of the most successful activities I have ever had in my classes.  Though I have worked to create a reading-friendly culture or mindset in my classes this year by spending the first ten minutes of every class each day reading, this helped to convince me that even my reluctant readers are willing with the right approach.  I cannot thank our media specialists enough for coming to me with an idea and working together to form a plan that kept 5 classes of sophomores engaged and reading for full 50 minutes (or more) class periods.  


The formal dining ambiance of the event created a sense of curiosity and excitement in my students. Students were intrigued by the formality of a maitre d’  greeting them as they approached the door and were in awe of candlelit tables as they entered.  The interest didn’t stop with seating either. Students remained engaged throughout the periods, sampling from six different genres.  


Candlelight Book "Dining"
It was thrilling to watch my students browsing through the many choices they had been served, choosing the “dish” they believed to be most favorable to their appetites, and devouring the stories. The positive reaction that I both saw and received was rewarding.   There were several students who, though pretending to be uninterested, checked out books for “to go” orders when they believed no one was looking or paying attention.  Additionally, I had students thank me (surprising, right?) and even request future book tastings. Many students anxiously asked if they would get their book passes returned so that they had the list to refer to in the future.  


The whole event was a success.  There was very little redirecting students.  Most of the students stayed focused and willingingly engaged for the entire event. I am anxious to see how my students respond in their official feedback forms following the event.

I will absolutely be doing this again with my classes.  The event allowed the students time to sample books that they may have never willingly chosen otherwise and find gems beyond my limited classroom library.  

Student Voices

"I thought it was an interesting way to get people to get a taste of some reading genres that might not appeal to certain people."

"At first I thought it was going to be boring but it turned out to be pretty fun."

"I thought it was pretty cool but I feel like we should have had more time to actually read the books and get a good taste."

"It was cool and interesting and helped me find out what kind of books I like."

"I really liked it. I ended up finding a book that I like. I would have never found this book if I would have not done this."

Takeaways

It always surprises me how simple changes to a classroom space can alter the dynamic in a dramatic way. Mrs. Davis' students were extremely engaged in this activity. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to get out into a classroom. Teachers and students saw us in the hallways as we went to and fro in our costumes. This advertised the event in a great way! Teachers and administrators visited the event. In addition, several ELA teachers now want us to bring our "book catering" to their classrooms. One has even made reservations for these services for early next week. I think we have a great recipe for literacy success in the building. Think about launching your own book tasting event soon. Be sure to share your book tasting stories in the comments below.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

How we helped geography classes Skype with national parks in the library.

3 things I've learned about Breakout EDU.

My table of contents for the blog is here!





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