I tried something new this week, and I’m so glad I did. I was ready to launch reading workshop with my new tenth grade class, and I decided to let my students do “speed dating” with books I have in the classroom. This speed dating activity worked so well to help each student find the right book for them.
Getting it all organized
First, I had to decide how to get the speed dating activity organized. Because our district is committed to reading workshop, I am blessed to have a huge pile of amazing titles. I wasn’t sure if I should put out random selections of books at each station, or group them by subject/genre. I didn’t want the students to judge the books because they were in a certain category, but sometimes those categories help, right? A quick survey on Instagram helped me decide that random would be best.
Next, I printed off an instruction card for each speed dating station, and brought in some “romantic” props from home. Luckily, I have a pile of LED candles and lots of fake flowers 😍
I also placed cue cards at each station. Students used one side to make notes about the books they liked and the back side to record their top three choices.
I placed five cue cards at each station, so the first group of students could use them. Then, they took them with them as they rotated around the speed dating stations.
I arranged everything on Sunday afternoon, so when my students arrived the next day, it would be all ready to go.
In fact, I kept the door shut until the bell rang, to get the buzz going. I poked my head out to tell them that I had something very special for them, and they had to be patient.
When my students came in the room, they saw the tables arranged with just the candles and flowers (I had the books stacked and ready to go on my shelves). I told them first that, in honor of Valentine’s Day on Friday, we were going to do some speed dating. I quickly told them (to avert the panic) that their potential dates would be with books, and started arranging the titles at the stations as I explained how it would work.
There were five stations with five titles at each one (I have twenty-five students, so the math was easy). I gave students approximately seven-eight minutes at each speed dating station – I circulated and told them to rotate to the next station once it seemed like they’d all had a chance to check out each book.
They were instructed to take notes on the cue cards I gave them. On side one they’d note which books they liked; after they had been to each station, they were to write their top three titles on the back.
I also had an “overflow” table with other books that didn’t make it to the stations. They had a few minutes to browse that at the end.
Timing the speed dating activity
This took us about forty minutes. When they finished, students watched a video that was leading into an activity for the next day, and while they watched, I was able to use their top three lists to assign their books. That way, everyone left with a book they wanted to read.
I was very pleased with the speed dating with books activity and will most definitely do it again. Previously I would just let students roam the shelves, but I decided to do this for a couple of reasons. First, it’s Valentine’s Day on Friday, so I thought it would be a fun way to start the week (you can do this any time of year, of course!)
Secondly, I figured this speed dating process would create more buzz for the books, because the students would have to make a list of their top three books and wait to see what they got. And, finally, it forced them to take a look at titles that they may not normally gravitate toward. All in all, it was a huge success!
If you want more tips for helping students find the right book, click here. And check out this post to find out how to run a successful book club. And if you want the procedure, handouts and instruction tents for your own speed dating with books activity, click below to access!
Let me know if you have any questions! You can also check out my online class for Planning a Reading Workshop.