One of my challenges to myself this year was to implement Reader's Workshop better than last year.
In 2017, I was in a fairly unique position of having a Literacy and Numeracy Mentor/Coach in my class as a support for most of the first term. In the time she was in my room, she demonstrated and guided me in implementing the Reader's Workshop model as based on Debbie Miller's book, Reading with Meaning. Allison W has been an absolute gem when it comes to sharing her expertise, passion and amazing collection of quality children's literature, especially gorgeous picture books. In order to continue our journey together, I rearranged my timetable to suit when Allison was available and I was able to keep working with her for the entire year. It was invaluable to me to be able to do this, and watch an expert in action!
This year, I have had to do it alone, as Allison W is back on class, teaching Year 1. I have taken on her passion and enthusiasm, and made it my own. My class this year are different, and I am introducing them to different books at different times, but I am loving how they are beginning to use more metalanguage when talking about how they are learning to read, and how they are critically evaluating books to see if they are a 'good fit' for them.
As part of last year's Reader's Workshop, Allison W and I hosted a Book Tasting to celebrate our students' reading and give them a chance to try different types of books. It was a hit! So, with some modifications, I decided to do it again.
This year I have support from another amazing teacher, Alison M. (We have three Alisons at our school!) She was such a good sport when I said I was going to host a Book Tasting, and helped out so much with setting up, toasting fruit bread, cutting and serving carrot sticks and generally ensuring that everything ran smoothly. I couldn't have done it without her!
How to Host a Book Tasting
Firstly, I would make sure you have plenty of time beforehand to reset the room and decorate/set the tables. Part of the experience of a Book Tasting is that it's different to a normal Reader's Workshop or reading lesson. I used my lunch break a my set-up time, and 50 minutes just about did it.
I collected candles (the LED ones from IKEA) and tablecloths from home, there was a vase with flowers (fake geraniums) on each table and colour coordinated IKEA plastic plates at each table for snacks to share.
I went shopping and got fruit bread and spreadable butter, carrots, celery and hummus, and some jelly snakes and dinosaurs.
I gathered a collection of books from other teachers and the school's library.
I bought this resource off TpT.
This was an absolutely fantastic resource! I didn't use it all, but the menus for documenting books the students loved and their reasoning was great - my kiddos ACTUALLY WANTED to write about all the cool books they had discovered! I used the table numbers to help guide where they needed to go when they rotated and the teacher tips/photos to guide myself with setting up on the day.
Once the students walked into the classroom, which had looked 'normal' before lunch, and smelt the toasting fruit bread, they were #superexcited! All the effort that Alison M and I had put in was worth it. To start off, I went through the process of rotating around the tables, what snacks they would find there and how to fill in their menu.
Each student started at their usual desk, had some time to browse and read the collection of books at that particular table. They had a moment to fill in their favourite book from that table in their menu, then as a group, they rotated to the next table. Once all five tables had been sampled, our Book Tasting was complete!
We all had an absolute blast! It was so much fun, trying new books, eating snacks, sharing our thoughts and enjoying a break from 'regular learning'. The most lovely thing was seeing them continue to read through the pack-up bell (it goes 10 minutes before home time) and then continue reading AFTER the home bell! They didn't want to leave!
Alison M and I were helped by a lovely parent to tidy up and put everything back where it belonged after school. The following day, I asked my class for feedback on the Book Tasting and what they thought of it. They had some really lovely ideas, as well as a few funny ones (we needed more celery!), but from all students, it was a success.
Book Genres or Types used in my Book Tasting
- Wordless picture books, like Chalk, Fossil, Footpath Flowers, Journey and Full Moon Soup.
- Non-fiction books, on a variety of topics I knew my students would enjoy: space, spiders, animals, LEGO and world records.
- Movie and TV book adaptions. I used these to hook some of my lower readers in, as I know a lot of them love super heroes and watch a lot of TV.
- Choose Your Own Adventure and puzzle books. I loved these as a child, and I'm seeing a resurgence of this style of books coming out now.
- Comics and Graphic novels. I used visuals a lot to hook my students in this time, as it was their first Book Tasting, but also because they are in Year 3.
Tips and Tricks
- Collect all your resources before the event. This helped me be organised and prevented me from forgetting anything.
- Choose books that will get your class excited (there are suggestions in the Book Tasting resource above).
- Enlist help! Even if it's only for set-up and pack-up.
- Invite your school leaders. I invited my executive teacher to the event and she was impressed by how well my students engaged with the books, and how they were able to articulate their reading strategies and reasons for their favourite selections.
- Take photos! Or get a helper to take photos. It all goes by so quickly, and the photos are great to share with parents on apps like Seesaw.
- Call in favours - I asked Allison W if I could borrow her wordless picture books and another colleague for their extensive collection of new and old Choose Your Own Adventure books.
- Enjoy yourself!
Thanks for dropping in and reading such a long post. It was such an exciting experience, and I wanted to share it with you!
P.S. Allison and Alison, if you are reading this: THANK YOU both. I could never do the crazy 'extra' stuff for my class without your guidance, expertise, enthusiasm and support. Thank you!