After rolling this lesson out, I can confidentially say that this is now one of my favorite ways to connect kids with books books and I am excited to give you my materials and reflections so you can do it too!
A few months ago, Corey mentioned to me that she had seen a book tasting on Pinterest and thought we could use it to introduce books for literature circles in the Spring, I decided to reconsider the idea. And, when an English teacher scheduled her classes on Valentine's Day to come to the library and explore books, it seemed like the timing was perfect to try out a book tasting.
My first step was research. I did a bit of searching and read about book tastings at a range of ages and grade levels. Lots of teachers and librarians have done book tastings with their students so there are many resources available. You'll find a variety of articles and resources from educator colleagues on this activity at the end of this post.
A trip to the dollar store got me vases, flowers, and silver trays. I cut out little paper hearts to add to table decorations, downloaded a cool restaurant font, and put together a menu for student response. We named our restaurant Bistro 8100 (based on our school's address) and set up a sign at the entrance. Table signs marked genre.
We finished with an elaborate desert which was always accompanied by an actual tasting from a "local chocolate shop" (a Hershey's Kiss). We played Pandora's classical music station in the background. We even pointed them towards our "complimentary cheese course" as they finished up -- cheesy YA Lit-related jokes and pick-up llines written on the back of the menu. Bistro 8100 did big business -- we saw five eighth grade English classes, almost 130 students, throughout the course of the day.
Movement: Even though our class periods are short (47 minutes) I try to incorporate movement into my lessons whenever I can. Instead of delivering each "course" to the table, students had to move through four different tables to look at an Appetizer, Salad, Entree, and Dessert. The movement helped them re-focus on a new book each course.
Choice: Although limited to four people per table (we had eight tables), students could choose where to go at each rotation. I liked how this gave then the opportunity to select genres that appealed to them, while still encouraging students to move between four different options.
Engagement: I don't know if I can attribute it to any one thing (the table setting, the music, the vibe in general), but all of our students were so engaged and mindful throughout the whole the day. Whereas a book speed dating activity encourages a fairly quick snap judgement of a book, this book tasting asked students to savor and reflect on each title. I get the difference now between these two methods of sharing books and I understand the value of both.
At the end of each tasting, students were encouraged to take any book they enjoyed throughout the event. They were free to browse all tables, even the ones they didn't get to. And, we simply had to restock the tables with new books from each genre between classes.
All of my materials are available below; please feel free to use and edit as you see fit. Included are PDF versions and MS Word versions (you might want to download the font I used before accessing the MS Word materials):
I am excited to try this with Corey's seventh grade history students in the Spring as they select books for historical fiction literature circles. I envision each table as a different book, with a detailed menu description of each choice. And now that have all of our props and materials, it will be easy to pull together.
Other resources to explore as you bring book tastings to your own students:
Please feel free to reach out to me with questions about the materials or the lesson in general! And I can't wait to hear all about your book tastings -- tell me what you served at your restaurant!
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