Saturday, September 3, 2016

Hosting a Book Tasting

Kate and I follow a lot of blogs. We LOVE learning from others! And when we started seeing this activity pop up on a few of our favorites, we knew we HAD to try it out! And, boy are we glad we did! The first one we read was TEACHING WITH A MOUNTAIN VIEW. If you don't follow SHOULD! She's amazing! This activity was a PERFECT way to launch our Reading Workshop this year! We will definitely repeat this one probably mid and end year! We ran ours a little bit differently than Mary did, but you really have to work with what you have and what your needs are! So, here's the deal:

The premise is that you are "hosting" a "book tasting" for your kids. Kids will get to "taste" or sample different books from different genres. They reflect on what they liked and didn't like in their "menu." They were given opportunities to read, write, and discuss their "tastes." From this activity, we launched our Reading Workshop with a fantastic discussion about "Who are you as a reader?" Our next step will be to set some goals (but we didn't get that far yet). 

We really played this up and welcomed them to the "TEAM TOGETHERNESS Restaurant!" in the hallway by handing them their menus before they even walked through the door. I even wore a paper chef hat and apron (thank you to my kindergarten friends with their endless dress up materials) Check out this incredibly unflattering picture Kate snapped of me. The kids really thought I was crazy...remember...we did this on the 2nd day of school! :) Thankfully, we have looped with this class up to 5th grade, so they all already know that we have a flare for the "dramatic" and are never afraid to make fools out of ourselves!

After this, I explained the process. They were going to experience a "5 course meal" of books! Each course would be a different genre. I went over the menu, the timing, and put them into random groups of 10 (we have 50 kids). Then, we got started!

We completed all 5 rotations in about an hour. I gave each "course" about 10 minutes. Those 10 minutes included:

  • 5 minutes of pure stamina reading
  • 2 minutes of jotting down their thinking in their "menu"
  • 2-3 minutes for discussion and clean up to move to the next rotation

At the end of the "meal", kids wrote down their "must reads" on a bookmark to keep. Then we followed up the activity with our lesson of "Who are you as a reader?" The discussion was absolutely amazing!

Have we piqued your interest? Are you ready to try it yourself? Here is what you need to do!
1. Purchase THIS RESOURCE from "Head Over Heels for Teaching"! It is worth it! Everything you need to print out is in it! She also has lots of pictures and examples! She even provides multiple options, so you can pick what you like! Print the resources from here that you want! We used the teaser posters, the "menu", the table numbers, the place mats, the bookmarks, and the genre descriptors.

2. Head to your local dollar store. I purchased 5 table clothes, 5 plastic platters, and sets of battery operated tea lights

3. Decide on what genres you want your kids to "taste"--the resources has LOTS! We used her posters as mini anchor charts and hung them in our room. We ultimately only had time for 5, but you could always do more. We chose: Realistic Fiction, Fantasy, Biography, Mystery, and Historical Fiction for our "tasting". Collect enough books for each table. We had 10 kids per group, so I made sure to pull 10-12 books per genre. We are fortunate to have a fantastic classroom library, so almost all of our books were from there. I pulled a few copies from the school library of titles I have "lost" over the year and need to replace.

4. Set up your room. Each table had a table cloth, a "serving platter" filled with books, a table number, and a genre description. I put a few of the tea lights around for effect, as well. I also put a few of the place mats from the resource on the tables. We did this after lunch, so I could surprise the kids when they came back. It was so much fun to see the looks on their faces. We don't have a lot of "traditional tables" in our space, so we made the best of what we had. We also didn't have "seats" or "place mats" for every kid. With 50 kids in our space, we certainly don't have 5 tables of 10! The main genre table was set up, and kids sat anywhere near that table. Some sat on the floor or other cushions. They were only reading for 5 minutes, then they got up and joined their group again.
5. HAVE FUN! Fun is a HUGE part of our school this year! We want our kids to have fun with learning. We need to have fun, as teacher, too! Dress up! Be silly! Use a funny voice! Even 5th graders get a kick out of it!

6. Follow up with a discussion. This was critical. Debrief. Share. Use it as a launching pad for your year! Or, possibly, a check in mid year. Or even an end of year reflection...have your tastes changed? Have you discovered a new genre that you love that you didn't think of trying before? What do your tastes say about you as a reader? Where could you stretch yourself?

It truly was a magical hour of reading fun! The kids loved it, and I'm sure they will remember it for quite some time ("remember that time when Mrs. Patterson dressed up like a weird chef??") I hope they remember that it felt good and was FUN!

I hope you all have had a great launch to your year, as well! Rest up on this long weekend!
Happy Teaching!



  1. Trust me, the restaurant hostesses made their roles come alive with this one! : )

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