This post originally appeared on the blog Musings from the Middle School.
This week, we are getting ready to start our first round of literature circles. Our book choices are Wonder, Among the Hidden, Freak the Mighty, Al Capone Does My Shirts, and Running Out of Time. Gah! Don’t you just love those books?!? I am so excited and can’t wait to get started!
I’ve written before about how I make Literature Circles work in my classroom, but today I wanted to share how I get them started. It’s one of my FAVORITE classroom activities that I stole borrowed from my friend, Janice Malone at ELA Seminars, LLC. It’s called a Book Tasting and it’s a hoot!
After I have the books picked, I make a “menu” for each one that features the book’s synopsis and some reviews. Next, I set up my room with some super-cheap checkered tablecloths, paper place mats, and battery-operated votive candles (all from Amazon). A copy of each book is laid on the place mat. I stream some Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, put my favorite roaring fireplace video on the big screen, and set out a basket of after-dinner mints.
When the kids come in, they are grouped into a “party” and led to their table. Once everyone is seated, they get about 10 minutes to read and discuss the title at their table. Then, each party moves to a new table and “tastes” the choice there.
At the end of the tasting, after each party has sampled all the books, the kids rank their choices – “1” being the book they are most excited to read, “5” being the least – and give their sheets to me. Then, I group them into their Literature Circles. (Usually, I am able to give most kids one of the books in their top three slots!)
When I do activities like this with my 7th graders, I am reminded that even though their bodies are big and their mouths can sometimes be bigger, they are still just kids! They get so into the “pretending.” When I was doing this with them the other day, after each party was seated, I overheard one kid saying to another, “Get your elbows off the table! You can’t have your elbows on the table at a fancy restaurant!” And a bit later I heard someone telling a friend to remember to “cover your mouth when you cough in a restaurant because you don’t want your germs in the air to land on people’s food!” Even after the book tasting was over, they insisted that I not remove the tablecloths and candles for writing class because it made the room a lot more fun 🙂
So, if you are getting ready to jump into a round of literature circles, or you just want to get your students to “taste” some different titles, give this a try!
Ever host a book tasting? Think you might want to? I’d love to hear from you!
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Jenna Smith has been a teacher since she was old enough to sneak a pair of her mom’s high heels and play “school” with her rows of dolls and stuffed animals. For the last 11 years, she’s been teaching middle school in South Jersey, where she lives with her teacher-husband and four children. You can learn more about Jenna and her teaching approaches by visiting her blog Musings from the Middle School, following her on Facebook, or stopping by her TpT store (also named Musings from the Middle School).