Tips for Getting Kids to Do More Choice Reading: Book Speed Dating

Book Speed DatingFlirt, woo, and start a relationship with a book!

This video is part of the teacher tip series, “How to Create Book Hype,” wherein I discuss how to increase the love around choice reading by doing Book Speed Dating in class with your students. This activity can be modified for at any grade level, even though we compare it to the high school dating scene of checkin’ out potential love interests. I generally do this activity on the first day of a new class, mostly as a way to introduce students to my classroom library and choice reading expectations.

Q: How do I get my students started? 

A: Since this activity works no matter the size of your classroom library, you can start in a couple different ways.  If your library is still growing or you want them to speed date with a specific genre/topic, I’d begin by pulling all of the books off the shelves and arranging the desks in a circle.  Personally, I like to use this structure when we’re beginning a new history unit or after we’ve received a recently fulfilled Donors Choose project.  If I want them to speed date with all of the books, like on the first day of class, I have the kids pull books themselves, but I ask them to grab a specific blend of genres. 

Q: Other than books, what do they need to speed date?

A: Anytime my students are speed dating (or participating in any kind of book talk, for that matter), they take out their To-Read Lists. I have these pre-printed and always up-for-grabs in my classroom, so if a kid fills their list, they can get a new one independent of me. My To-Read List provides space for students to quickly jot down the title, author, genre, and basic story-line gist. This helps kids find books that we previously talked about. I don’t know about your students, but mine continuously say, “Mrs. Beaton, what’s the name of that one book you told us about a few weeks ago? You know, that one where <insert vague comment here>.” This also falls under Donalyn Miller‘s Reading in the Wild idea about teaching kids to always have a reading plan.  It’s great when you’re conferring with kids and ask what they’re planning to read next, and they respond by saying, “Oh! I’ve got like five good things on my To-Read list!”

Q: What does Book Speed Dating look like in action?

A: Once students have a book stack in front of them, we do a mini-lesson on how to flirt with a book by checking out the body of the book: the cover, awards, author blurbs, copyright page summary, etc. At this, without fail, my high schoolers start joking about “how good the backside looks” on each book.

From there, it becomes a free-for-all. Students either work through their self-collected stacks or start passing the books around the circle.  Some kids either know their tastes so well or are stuck in a reading rut that they super-speed date. My students often tease these kids saying they have “commitment issues.”

Generally, the pass-around starts to slow down when kids find titles they don’t want to share. The goal isn’t necessarily to get through all the books but to increase the exposure to titles they might not randomly grab off the shelves on their own. We always save time to not only talk about those “love at first sight” titles and our “potential future relationships” but also to re-shelve the books.

16 thoughts on “Tips for Getting Kids to Do More Choice Reading: Book Speed Dating

  1. I love any ideas for encouraging reading. I am a speech therapist and use books/reading to have students practice their speech…thus a way to also introduce them to a variety of books. I will add some steps. Thanks!

    • Thanks so much, Charmon. I love that you’re using novels with students as a way to develop their language skills. How important to blend them for authentic work! I’m sure your students are really benefiting from your choices.

  2. This is an awesome way to introduce them to my library in a short amount of time and get them hyped up for what is waiting for them on my shelves! Do you by chance have your To-Read List document somewhere where I can download it? Perhaps on TeachersPayTeachers maybe?

  3. Great post! Thanks for sharing! We do an app speed dating situation for their iPads but this is such a natural fit too. I wonder how I could do a writing speed dating piece- write from various perspectives of people in your narrative, write in different genres on this topic, etc. very inspiring post!

    • Thanks, Ben! You always have great ways of adapting ideas for your students. I’m curious about this writing idea. Tell me more about it. Are you thinking of having them co-author something, via a method like silent conversation?

  4. Hi, there! Love your post on this. I will be trying this tomorrow, but I have rows of seats. Do you think I could just place a book on each desk and have them move desks every 2 or 3 minutes? I have approximately 40 kids in each class!

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Hi Sue!
      Thanks for the comment. I’m so glad that you’re trying this out with your students, especially with such large classes! More power (and patience) to you! I would say that rows can definitely still work for Speed Dating. I’m wondering though if it’d be more efficient to have to books move instead of the kids. Just a thought… Let me know how it goes. I always love hearing how teacher modified this idea.
      Take care,

  5. Hi there! Thank you so much for sharing this idea. I’m interested in the way that you organize your library. Is there any way that you can tell me the different types of genres you use to categorize your library?

    • Hi Amy,
      Here’s a link to a post where I break down some of the organizational strategies of my classroom library:

      My books are organized by the following genres:
      -Realistic Fiction
      -History/Historical Fiction

      Of course, books float between genres too, so I normally just stick more than one Demco label on the book. For example, the Leviathan series has history, fantasy, and adventure on it. As long as the kids put it (basically) back where they found it on the shelves, another kid will be able to find it when searching.

      Additionally, all of my graphic novels, poetic verse books, nonfiction “board” books, and picture books are dispersed respectively among the appropriate genres.

      I know this isn’t a perfect system, but it seems to work for me. I’d love to hear how you organize your books. Do share, if you get a chance! 🙂

  6. I would like to know where to get the paper they fill out while doing the book speed dating. This would be great for my 4th-6th graders. If anyone knows where to get the paper could they let me know?????

    • Thanks for the interest, Melissa. I used to use a printed document for their speed dating, but now I’ve found it’s easier for me and more authentic for the kids to just use their To-Read list in their writer’s notebooks. It’s not very “sexy” in terms of playing with the idea of “speed dating,” but it builds on those life-long reader skills.

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