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Please Pass the Books February 12, 2012

Filed under: Education — bvanetten @ 9:27 pm

I’ve been writing a lot here about ways to interest kids in reading. Last week I had a really successful activity toward motivating kids to  read that I want to share.

The day before, I told the students we were going to do a Book Pass activity, and asked them to each bring 1-3 books that they have read and enjoyed with them to school the next day. The day of, I provided each student with a “Book Pass Log,” which provided space to record a book title, the author of the book, and the name of the person who recommended it. Each student put their books on their desks and then walked around the room, perusing books. If they saw something that looked good, they could write it down. I told them that the next time they tell me that they don’t know what to read, or they can’t find anything that looks good, I will remind them to take a look at the list they made during the Book Pass.

It was pretty awesome.

It accomplished what I hoped for (getting students to talk about the things they choose to read and see how much variety there is), but I was surprised by how smoothly it went. I was initially upset because in my first class, less than half the students actually brought anything to share. Luckily though, the activity lends itself well to this situation (which is good, because lesson plans that rely too much on student cooperation and preparation scare me because they are so out of my control) because, although there were fewer books to look at that I hoped for, all the students could still participate. The students who do like to read become the stars of the show during an activity like this, and gives them a little opportunity to show off what they like and to engage with their peers about it. There were certainly some desks that had a higher concentration of students crowded around them, and particular names kept showing up on logs, and those same students were eager to move around the room to see what others had brought. I only had one student with a bad attitude the whole day (he informed me that he was so above his peers in reading ability that they couldn’t possibly have brought anything to interest him). I love the way this activity works toward creating an inclusive environment and also provides opportunities for students to serve as experts in reading and taste.

I also participated in the activity, and the students were excited when I stopped at their desks to write down titles they had brought with them. As a teacher, it’s a great way to see trends in what students are reading and what is currently popular (which is especially good for people like me, who don’t read a lot of Young Adult fiction for fun. It was also a great bonding experience when I came across students who brought books I have read and could have a conversation with them about it.

And the evidence that this had a measurable effect on reading in the classroom? Several students brought copies of books in the Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins), which sparked conversations about why it was so popular. Students who had brought them were excited to find other kids who had or were also reading it, and made students who haven’t yet get interested. The fact that it is a series and that it is being made into a movie also helps to catch student interest. When we went to the book fair this week, several of my students bought copies of it and one student asked to borrow my copy before the Book Pass activity was even over. There are at least three kids reading it in every section I teach now.

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