I knew I was in big trouble by the end of 4th period.
You see, I had gotten my students excited about 30 new titles to your classroom library. What’s the problem?, you might be thinking right now. The problem is sheer math– I teach 137 students and just book shopped 30 titles. And I don’t know about your students, but when I flash a shiny new title in front of them like Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Solo by Kwame Alexander, or American Street by Ibi Zoboi, things get real– Hunger-Games real.
Okay, maybe no one is fighting to the death over these books (yet) but I do have to ask students in each class to take books out of their shirts or bags because they are trying to sneak books like Sold out of the classroom (and side note, if you haven’t read or considered any of these titles yourself, please stop reading this post and find these titles A.S.A.P– I’ll wait here).
Back to my problem– how to fairly place these books into the hands of my eager readers. But first, let’s set the stage.
At the beginning of each term, I make one of our first days a book shopping day. The way we book shop changes each time (using some form of a book speed date) but the result is my sophomore students leave the room with more titles added to their readers/writers notebook. I love book shopping days in addition to our other book activities we using during the term (see Amy R’s 3 Ideas for Better Book Talk for some awesome ideas to build book interest/love). Book shopping is a great way to get books into my students’ hands so they can look at the cover art, the description, even the first few pages to see if it will grab their attention.
Ultimately, however, there are a handful of books (12 titles this time around) that many students wanted to take out first. Since taking bribes like Barnes and Noble gift cards or fancy loose-leaf tea is frowned upon, I needed something new this time around to fairly gets these new books into the hands of my readers. It would be unfair to let 1st period get the first chance to sign out these books because my later class periods would never have a shot–most books would be signed out by lunch.
Instead, I was reminded of something I learned when Donalyn Miller spoke at the Conway School District’s Write Now! Conference in Conway, NH a few years back– Book Raffles! (BTW- if you are in the New England area at the end of March, Kylene Beers will be at this year’s Write Now! conference!!!! Can.Not.Wait.). While to some it might come off as very “middle school”, it was just what we needed to not only fairly spread some book love but it also built up some book buzz during our class time. While students were working on a separate task (their independent reading reflections for the previous term), I walked around with raffle tickets. Students were allowed one per book they were interested in. For some, they were only interested in one or two books so they took that many tickets. For others, they took a ticket for all the books being raffled (12 tickets total).
Target $3 tin buckets make great raffle containers!!!
At the end of the same day, my senior class advisees helped me draw tickets to keep everything on the up (and up). The next day, I didn’t get the usual flak from students about who got which books. Instead, students rushed into class to see who won each book and what class period they were in. It even inspired me to share this idea with our school librarian, who did something very similar in the library before our Winter Break last month. Not only did it increase the book buzz in the building but it got a few students in the school library who wouldn’t normally visit (like my student Dario, who was really bummed when he didn’t win Long Way Down from our class raffle but won a copy through the school library).
Bottom line: I think it’s important for us to consider ideas that, at first blush, may seem for younger classroom settings; they may be just what we need to build some book buzz. My students are already asking when we’ll do our next book raffle or if I can pull another name if the book comes back early (which I totally have). Their excitement makes me what to step outside my comfort zone and try new things in our attempt to be a fully functioning workshop classroom.
P.S.-If you are just starting out, here are some great tips on how to build your classroom library. I completely relate to Lisa’s situation. I often hide Amazon and First Book boxes in the trunk of my car so I can sneak them into my classroom without the husband finding out. Sorry Dougie!
P.P.S.- Shout out to Donalyn Miller and Penny Kittle, who inspire me every day to try new things to get my students to feel the #booklove.
Kristin Seed teaches English 10 at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. When she’s not devouring YA books, you can find her singing and dancing to Kidz Bop songs with her five-year-old son. You can find Kristin on Twitter @Eatbooks4brkfst.