By Presto Plans
We have all been there. You bring your students down to the library to choose an independent novel and are met with a mix of reactions from unrestrained excitement to grumbles and groans. While your avid readers will scour the stacks looking for their favorite author or genre, there are also always those students who look at the mountain of books and don’t want to take a single step.
If this sounds familiar, try one of the following ideas to get that perfect book in each of your students’ hands.
1. SEARCH THE STACKS ACTIVITY
Let’s be honest; as English teachers, the library is our happy place. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many students. Bringing your class to the library and saying, “Choose a novel,” can lead to feelings of overwhelming stress for some of your students.
Avoid this by sending your class on a library quest to help them explore the sections, discover new authors, and find books based on their interests. This activity allows students to search the stacks for titles that fall into particular categories while also familiarizing them with the library layout. During the process, they will hopefully run into a novel or two that they might be interested in trying out. Download your copy of this activity for free by clicking HERE or on the image below.
2. SEND THEM ON AN ONLINE DATE WITH A BOOKOne way to hook your students into finding a novel is by sending them on an online date with a book. This is how the activity works:
1. Students get a random book (you can preselect high interest ones) and create an online dating profile based on the book cover, the title, and the blurb on the back of the book or inside the jacket cover. The profile will include a physical description, words to describe the book, a brief plot “about me” summary section, an ideal reader description, and an area to describe who should “check the book out.”
2. The teacher creates a class bulletin board to display all of the profiles (mine says "Fall In Love With A Book - see below). Students find one that interests them and take it down. They have found a match!
3. Students read some of the novel during silent reading, examine their first impressions, and decide if it is a love connection or if it will end in heartbreak.
If you want more detail on how to implement the Online Date With A Book activities in your class, click HERE to read about how I set this up step-by-step.
3. USE A STUDENT INTEREST SURVEY
I always seem to have a couple of students who cannot find one novel in the hundreds of titles available. When this happens (and it is always right before the bell rings), I find myself attempting to extract information from an unwilling student about their interests and hobbies in a desperate attempt to get them a book before we go back to class. I get frustrated. They get frustrated. It’s a mess.
I have found that completing a student interest survey a few days before going to the library makes it much easier to help in that situation. By getting to know those who you know may have trouble finding something to read, you can prep a smaller pool of novel ideas in advance based on what they write in the survey. If you want to try out the student interest survey I use, you can download for free by clicking HERE or the image below.
4. ASK THE INTERNET
Introduce your students to websites that help them choose novels based on other books they have read and enjoyed. Two sites that I use are:
Students simply put in the name of a novel they enjoyed and a list of similar novels is generated with the click of a button. When I bring my students to the library, I leave one of these websites open on a computer as a first place for students to go if they need suggestions. If you want to check one of the sites out (whatshouldIreadnext.com), click the image below.
5. TRY A BOOK RECOMMENDATION ACTIVITY
A student recommendation of a novel will go much further than one from a teacher. Instead of allowing students to choose their own novels, try this book recommedation activity instead:
1. Allow students to choose a partner (choosing for them doesn't work best with this activity).
2. Have them interview their partners for a few minutes to learn about their interests (or I would recommend giving them their partner’s student interest survey they have already completed from above. See here if you haven’t already downloaded ==> STUDENT SURVEY).
3. Have students choose three novels from the library they think their partner might like based on what they know/learn about them.
4. The student chooses one of the three novels to read in class. They don’t have to read it in its entirety, but they have to give it a try to see if it was a good recommendation!
6. ENLIST YOUR COLLEAGUES
Show students that the love of reading is not confined to the English classroom by enlisting some of your colleagues (teachers, educational assistants, custodians, administrators, admin assistants etc.) to come into your classroom to give a 5-minute talk on their favorite book. Tell them it is very informal and that they just have to explain a little about what the book is about and why they like it so much. Students will love to see their other teachers in another class (kind of like a visiting alien) and will see that reading is something that expands far beyond the English classroom. Also, they may even get a good book recommendation out of it. I have seen many students pick a book recommended in one of these book talks. If your colleagues are reluctant, bribe them with coffee and cookies. Works every time.
Do you have any other suggestions for how to help students choose a novel that they can’t put down? Leave your ideas by clicking the "Comments" button at the very top of this post!