I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Book Speed Dating

Since my genius hour is centered around independent reading, I've GOT to get these kids to read. I've already done three sets of book talks (keeping track for the students here), but I wanted to spice it up. Here's one way I tried this week...

First, I did my research. 
The following two blogs I found tucked away in my Evernote notes were extremely helpful!
Tips for Getting Kids to Do More Choice Reading: Book Speed Dating
          by Erica Beaton (@B10LovesBooks)
Building Our To-Read Lists: Book Speed Dating
          by Colby Sharp (@colbysharp)
I then found a note I'd saved about putting a sign out on the door, so I decided to create the sign: 
"Be prepared to fall in love..."

From these two stellar resources, I created my own "How To" list.

That was the easy part. Now I had to implement it.
I had buy-in from the four other 7th grade ELA teachers, and we decided to meet Wednesday after school to pull books off the shelves. We didn't all make it, but we DID choose a TON of books! Next, we organized them by genre, knowing that our realistic fiction books were myriad, and we'd have to create sub-groups.

Here are the groups upon which we decided:
     2 tables - realistic fiction
     1 - sports/adventure/survival
     2 - nonfiction
     1 - memoirs/biographies
     1 - fantasy (in a realistic setting)
     1 - fantasy (not on this world or of this time)
     1 - science fiction
     1 - historical fiction

Todd H. moved the tables, Amy created the signs, Ashley cut off the lamination and helped hang them, and Todd S. and I put the books on the tables.

What I overheard...
     "Oh my gosh - that is SUCH a good book! You HAVE to read it!"
     "I already read these."
     "I don't want to read any of these."
     "Have you read this? It is soooo good!"
     "Mrs. Kirr, have you read this?"
     "I don't like the cover."
     "This book is too big!"
     "Woah! This one has ___ pages!"
     "Can I check this out now?"

One-liners from the 7th graders...
     "Mind if I 'check you out?'"
     "Fine! You're not my genre anyway!"
     "This book is out of my league."

What we learned:
     * If you are going with table groups, number them so students know where to go with each rotation.
     * If you are going with genre groups, know that some students will have a difficult time looking at books in a genre they "don't like" (yet!).
     * Three minutes per group may actually be enough! I thought it would be too short, but it seemed to be just right.
     * No more than 5 students per table group. Any more and students aren't as focused on the books.
     * Students who read often will LOVE this activity.
     * Some reluctant readers... will still be reluctant. I will keep working to find the book that hooks them!

What I might like to change:
     * Mix the genres so everybody has at least one book that interests them at each table. Maybe they can explore that one book in more detail.
     * Figure out a way to have my timer app automated so the alarm goes off and then resets the time once again.

Additional note 10/8/13:
I found another great wiki to help with Book Speed Dating here! There's even a score sheet! Enjoy.
And another from 12/9/13: Book Speed Dating: How I did it and why I'll do it again


  1. I did speed dating with my two freshmen English classes the first two days of school. It was fun, kids found books they might not have looked at, and I now have two classes of readers. As students looked at the books, they kept notes on their computer of books they might like to read this year. Shortest list was five books.. Every once in awhile, I couldn't help myself, and I would grab once off a table and book talk it. I plan on doing this several times this school year. Just to keep kids thinking about the next book they want to read.

    1. I love how the "shortest list was five books." I don't know how many my students wrote down, but I did notice that the reluctant readers did have SOMEthing written. That's more than the day before, right?! Thanks for sharing your story here, too, Deb! We've got to get kids reading!

  2. Hooray, Joy! This looks like an amazing success! I love your suggestions for next time, and those One-Liners crack me up. Seventh-graders are too funny. :)

    Thanks so much for the shout-out.

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