I decided to try book speed dating with my Year 8 classes this week. Too often when they come for wide reading they grab a magazine and just flick through the pictures without actually doing much reading. I wanted them to engage with a number of books and read for a focused amount of time.
I arranged the tables and chairs into groups of four, and made it look special by adding tablecloths and a box of artificial flowers to each. (We found about two dozen artificial flower arrangements sitting in a cupboard a couple of years ago. No idea where they came from but we claimed them and they’ve been great for displays on Spring, Valentine’s Day etc). I then created a response sheet where students could give a quick opinion of the books. I put together a trolley of suitable books which would appeal to both genders, aiming for a mix of genres. Each place setting at the tables had a book, a response sheet and a pencil.
When the students arrived there was much speculation about what was going on with the new look of the library. I explained what speed dating was and how it related to our activity. I discussed how, just as we form first impressions of people, we get an impression of a book by looking at its cover, font, use of white space and blurb. We also discussed the etiquette of speed dating – giving people/books your full attention for the allotted time, not ignoring your date/book or passing them over for another.
Students then had three minutes to get to know their “date” by reading solidly. When I was planning this I thought three minutes might be too short a time, but some students struggled to focus for that long and had to be reminded that they were being rude to their date. At the end of the three minutes I played some music to signal the time to move – poppy, romantic music such as Taylor Swift worked best. Students filled in their sheet and moved to the next table.
Overall it was a successful lesson and something that got the kids talking – when my second class arrived they’d been prepped by the earlier class and were eager to try it. The response sheet was a bit of a distraction for some students – they tended to doodle rather than read – so I might rethink that next time.