Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How to Host a Book Tasting Event in Your Classroom: Get 'Em Moving - Then Get 'Em Writing

Video Demo: How to Host a Book Tasting Event

It’s the beginning of another school year and you’re fired up. A new group of students is headed your way. You’re ready to motivate them, stir their curiosity, and entice even your most introverted students to actively participate. 

You have one goal: You want everyone in your care to know they're in a safe, creative place so you can help them grow. And if you teach English Language Arts, part of that job is to make sure your students grow as readers and writers.

So where do you start?

You start by having students take part in reading, writing and discussion activities that guarantee success. 
And one of the best ways I know of to get students reading, writing, and discussing in a no-fail environment is to host Book Tasting events.

Book Tasting Pay Offs and Set Up

Book Tastings are popular with kids and teachers.

They're easy to set up. 

They engage everyone. 

And they show students that they might be in for a few surprises when they step into ELA class this year.

To get started, all you need is a class set of menus, plates, and books. Then, you'll assign a task.

Fiction Task

Before a fiction event you might say something like, “For the next 20 minutes, you will be reading four books for five minutes each. When time is called, you'll rate each one using 1-5 stars and then jot down a reason for your rating.”

What I like about this particular task is that it exposes students to several different genres (I usually include fantasy, adventure, sports fiction, mystery, and humor.), and students often get hooked on books they would never have picked up on their own.

Note: If you repeat this activity several times throughout the year, this critique and rating task also serves as a handy reading wish list.

Nonfiction Task

Here's a sample intro script for nonfiction: “For the next 12 minutes or so, you will be given a few minutes to read as much of each of these four articles as you can. When time is called, your job will be to record one thing you remember from an article before passing it to another student."

During this event (I sometimes call nonfiction sessions “Text Tastings.”), students break up into groups of four.  All students will read the same set of articles. 

This exercise may be followed by a whole-class discussion about the takeaways they recorded -- or students may share which facts were directly quoted, paraphrased, or summarized. 

Impromptu Tastings

Book Tastings may also be conducted using a single book.

Some of my best scavenger-hunt-style Book Tastings have been conducted right after a mini-lesson. I simply ask students to open their books and tag parts of the text which demonstrate the skill covered in the lesson.

Some of these skills include:
  • grammar techniques, 
  • supporting evidence, 
  • sentence structure, and 
  • author’s craft. 

I love to teach a skill and then have students look for examples of it in books they’ve selected themselves.

Follow Up

Sometimes, I collect student responses and use them as exit tickets or as assessment pieces. But most of the time, I just have students keep the menu covers so they can add inserts for future Book and Text Tastings. That way, students are able to use the completed inserts throughout the year as reference tools or as writing springboards. 

I call the Book Tasting event one of my Magic Lessons because this simple strategy never fails to surprise and delight students year after year.
Book Tasting Menus are available here.
Next blog post in this active engagement series: How to Write a Scary Story Readers Will Love

A special thanks to ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventure for hosting this blog hop event.

That's it for now, so until next time…stay committed…teach with passion…and inspire students with who you are.


  1. Such a creative idea! I bet kids "eat" it up!

  2. How fun! And what a great way to sample different books!

  3. I love this activity! What a creative idea!

  4. Thanks for such a great idea to get kids engaged with text!!

  5. What a fantastic and creative idea. I wish I still taught ELA. I suspect though that this idea can work in other subject areas. Maybe a current events tasting? Thanks for sharing.

  6. Wonderful! I'm so happy you linked this up with me at Spark Creativity. I actually just shared this post on my FB page earlier in the week because I love it! Hope to see you again next Tuesday...

  7. I am inspired to go forth!!!!

  8. I LOVE this idea, but where do you typically go afterwards? Once students have tasted a variety of books that they may never have read before, do you go into Literature Circles? Do you have them do an Independent Novel Study? Or is it just a one-and-done type of lesson to get students thinking about other genres?

  9. The first time I host a Book Tasting, I have students record their favorite lines which they will share during a whole-class discussion, and talk about writer's craft. After that, I use it to introduce students to various genres before taking them to the library to select novels for independent reading. Later on, before we start small group discussions or lit circles, I'll tell students to select discussion-worthy quotes or passages that contain characterization techniques so that I can set the stage for what a student-led discussion group should sound/feel like.

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  11. Thank you, your video was very informative and gave me a better idea of how to run my own book tasting. I appreciate your taking the time to do this!