This post was written by NCTE member Carly Van Der Wende, reprinted with permission from Edutopia.
As a language arts teacher, I’ve found that one of the best ways to keep students motivated to read books independently is to provide them with opportunities to share with classmates about their current reads. Speed booking is a fun, high-energy method for students to get book recommendations and practice their summarizing skills. It offers movement, connection, and a creative outlet. It can also be adapted in innovative ways through student-generated questions, character role-playing, poetry analysis, and research reporting to encourage higher-level thinking.
SPEED BOOKING ROUNDS
The energy in my classroom comes alive when students get to move and discuss, which makes speed booking an instant hit. In the weeks leading up to our Speed Booking day, I’ll let the class know they’ll soon be sharing about their independent reading books so that everyone can come in confidently for discussion. On Speed Booking day, half of the class remains seated while the other half rotates to different partners. I put number cards on tables so the traveling students know which spot to progress to next. Students travel with a “book wish list” so they can write down titles that sound interesting.
During each rotation, partners share summaries about books they’re currently reading. When the timer goes off after a few minutes, students move to the next spot and meet a new partner. At the end of their speed booking rounds, students come away with potential ideas for new books to read, as well as a sense of one-on-one connection with various classmates.
Students love the rapid nature of this activity, excitedly sharing as much as they can about their books in a small amount of time. As students are discussing their books, I circulate and sit with different partnerships, taking down brief observation notes. I’ll hear students share things like “I’m swiping right on my book, Among the Hidden, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, because I couldn’t wait to hear what would happen to the main character in the end! Let me tell you what it’s all about!” or “This was a fun read, but I wanted more character details to really feel connected. I’ll share the best moments.”
Following speed booking, I’ll have students reflect about the experience with questions like these:
- What book(s) might you consider reading?
- What did you notice, like, or learn from this experience?
- How did you feel while speed booking? Did your feelings change throughout the process?
TAKING SPEED BOOKING FURTHER
While students can get book recommendations in many ways, from class book projects to ChatGPT, there’s something joyful about the partner connection through speed booking that can’t be replaced. To extend beyond summarizing, I’ve come up with some creative ways to adapt speed booking.
Student-generated prompts: Together as a class, we generate a menu of sentence starters. Students might jot them down in a notebook or add them to a digital discussion spinner to use during each of their rounds.
Here are some examples:
- A character who has grown or changed throughout the book…
- An internal or external conflict a character has faced…
- A connection I made…
- A new title could be…
- If I made this book a movie…
- A theme I noticed…
- I had empathy for a character when…
- I would change…
- If I could add a character…
- Describe a prequel/sequel…
Having prompts helps students expand their thinking while taking the guesswork out of how to begin and sustain the conversation.
Character role-playing: Another way students can share about their book during speed booking is through character role-playing. Students often use props, accents, or costumes to fully immerse themselves into the mindset of their character.
I’ll provide students with idea prompts like these:
- As your character, describe how you’re feeling at this moment in the book and why.
- What have you been dying to tell another character but have been holding back?
- What are your hopes for the future?
I model this for students by playing the role of Dad from our class read-aloud, The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, which gets everyone energized because he’s a dynamic character that they’re all familiar with. Playing the role of Dad, I’ll begin by dramatically expressing, “I have to tell you, I’m feeling a bit low right now. It seems like everyone, even my own family, is beginning to lose faith in me. But I promise you all, I’m going to build that glass castle!”
Students then pretend to be their favorite characters from their books. At the end of the rounds, I’ll ask students to reflect on which character combination turned out to be the most interesting or fun. If the students choose to, they’ll reenact the conversation for the class. Students love when a particularly unusual match arises, like Katniss from The Hunger Games having a conversation with Castle from Ghost.
Informational reading reporting: Speed booking can also be used when students are reading informational sources. Using their research notes, students can share the main idea and details and delve further into their thinking with prompts like these:
- What does your current research reading make you think, feel, or wonder about?
- What has stood out to you the most?
- What do you hope to investigate further?
This method offers students an opportunity to teach and inspire one another about various topics and practice synthesizing information in a fun, spirited atmosphere. At the end of their rounds, students reflect on what they learned from each other. During this activity, students often inspire one another and find common topics of interest, which is a way for students to make connections when diving into cooperative learning and group research projects.
Poetry analysis: The speed booking method is also a fun way for students to share favorite poems they’ve been reading. I’ll often encourage students to connect with their partners by asking them to ponder questions like these:
- What was at the heart of your poem? What did it teach or show you?
- What were your favorite lines? Why?
- What does the poem make you feel?
Professional development: Recently I tried out speed booking with a group of middle school language arts teachers at our monthly department meeting. Teachers brought their favorite books and professional resources to share. In a short time, we learned a lot about one another through the selections we had chosen to bring and came away with a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration.
Carly Van Der Wende is a seventh-grade language arts teacher in New Jersey. A former DC Teaching Fellow, Carly has a background teaching elementary and middle school in both urban and suburban settings and is deeply passionate about educational equity. She holds advanced degrees in teaching and leadership.
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