After reading Penny Kittle’s Book Love, two Marion City Schools teachers, Amy Dunmire and Emily Partyka, decided to adapt a process the author called “book speed dating” for use in their classrooms. The results? Their learners are now exposed to more kinds of literature than ever before and they get to choose what they read for class – a first for many.
“Students don’t always have the voice and choice to pick their own books,” said Partyka when describing the experiences of students in her classroom, some of whom may not have browsed a library since grade school, and the opportunity to explore a variety of genres. “It empowers them to choose something they may not normally try.”
There are always a variety of genres for students to choose from, and Dunmire and Partyka will circulate, moving between conversations the students are having regarding their choices. Both teachers have read most of the selections, and indeed, purchased most of their books with their own money.
“The freshmen think it’s hilarious when we start talking about ‘checking out’ books,” said Partyka, describing how students will preview a book’s cover and read the jacket copy. “We’ll act as if a book is an actual date and talk about how we look at its ‘face,’ and then we’ll look to see what kind of ‘brains’ it has.”
Partyka’s students are sophomores in a co-taught class with another teacher, Josh Pace, and have gone through the “book speed dating” experience. She’s adapted the activity to be what she calls a “book tasting.” Students preview the books and write a short summary, though she is considering providing them a “menu” of reads the day before the next time she does the activity so students get more time with the books themselves the day of.
“The classroom is set up like a restaurant, and I’ve heard comments about how they’ve never seen a classroom decorated like that,” Partyka said.
“We’ve never had a student sleep or play on their cellphone during this activity,” continued Dunmire. “They actively look through the books, laugh and discuss them.”
Both teachers believe that these experiences create a no-risk environment that benefits their students as readers. If they choose a book but don’t like it, they can choose again, and because everyone participates, there’s an opportunity to foster conversations between classmates about their latest reads.
“Most students have three or more books on their To Read list once the activity is over,” said Partyka. “They become much more invested in their own reading and learning when they get to choose.”