“We have a lovely seat with a view for you. Right this way..…”
“.....Are you ready to order?”
“Um, yes. I’d like to try some Iqbal.”
Introducing books to students takes on a whole different feel when doing so in an unexpected way.In our geography classes, we read books to help bring the story of geography and people to the students. The story presented in a novel helps students to be empathetic and to bring the world more to life. They become exposed to different experiences in the world and better realize the advantages in their own lives.
To hook the students and start them off on the right foot in their reading, I present the books to the students in the form of a book buffet. I transform my classroom into Restaurant 144.
The students are greeted at the door by the Restaurant 144 sign and are asked how many in their dining party. As soft jazz music greets their ears, they are escorted across the room to a table adorned with a tablecloth and tea lights. They take their seats, menus are distributed, and the diners are told that a server will be over shortly to take their orders.
The menus have photos of certain books with a brief introduction to each book. Students look through the menu to make a choice. When the server returns, orders are taken, and the books are served - on plates, of course. The server informs the diners that they can return their choice to the “kitchen” if it is not to their liking and they can make another selection. (Our assistant principal was even able to come in as a guest server.)
To further develop the atmosphere, when a student asked if he could go get some water, I broke out a pitcher of water and cups and served water to those students in need of a drink.
The restaurant ambiance heightened students’ interest. Behavior was also enhanced, as students acted more formally with courtesy, pleases, and thank yous, just as if they were in a restaurant. As the day proceeded and different classes came to the doorway, I could see that word of mouth had already amplified other students' anticipation.
All students were engaged in reading the book of their choice. Even reluctant readers became absorbed with their choice. The unique environment and their ability to choose worked together to hook the students.
After all the students chose a book and had read several pages to confirm the book as the right choice for themselves, I organized students into groups that had chosen the same book. Together they looked over the guiding questions and made a reading schedule for themselves based on the three discussion dates that I set. On these dates, each group would hold their own Socratic seminar-like discussion which focused on the guiding questions and other questions or thoughts any of the readers wanted to bring forth to the group.
Most students, even reluctant readers, were very engaged in reading their books and involved on the discussion dates. The effort to pull off this hook was minimal, but the results impressive. The students had fun being introduced to a variety of books. They had the opportunity to choose, try, and choose a different book if necessary. And I had fun as well, interacting with students in a different way, and seeing them highly engaged in reading.
Restaurant 144 was a great success.
Restaurant 144 was a great success.
If you have had success creating an unexpected hook for students or transforming your classroom to engage students, or if this post has generated some thoughts of your own, please share in the comments. I would appreciate hearing from you.