July 27, 2023

3 Activities To Expose Your Students To Books On The First Days Of School

Here's 3 different activities I use during the first day or week of school so my students are exposed to the books in my classroom library.

If you are anything like me, you want each of your students to have a book in their hands by the end of that first week of school so you can jump right in to your independent reading routine. My classroom library is overflowing with amazing titles I know my students will love, but before they begin to find those amazing books, they need to understand how my classroom library is organized so they will know where to look.

Read on for the details about 3 different activities I use (and you can too!) during the first week and even on the first day of school so my students are exposed to the books in my classroom library and can explore how my classroom library is organized.

Use Genre Circles to Identify Likes and Dislikes 

Since my classroom library is organized by genre, it is important for students to understand what the different genres mean. The 10 genres I categorize my books into are: historical fiction, realistic fiction, nonfiction, humor, romance, mysteries & thrillers, action & adventure, science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia. To help students become more familiar with these genres is through an activity that I call genre circles. 

I have a mini poster for each genre labeled with the name and a definition alongside three concentric circles: love it, like it, and don’t like it/haven’t read much. I place these posters out on groups of students’ desks and students rotate around the room adding their name to each genre in the appropriate circle. You could also have out stacks of books to go along with each genre poster so students can see some of the books in your classroom library within that genre.

Here's 3 different activities I use during the first day or week of school so my students are exposed to the books in my classroom library.

This is a great community building activity as students are able to see who has similar reading interests to theirs. Later in the year, you can use these posters to put students into groups and share book recommendations. This activity is also helpful for me to see which genres are most popular with this year’s group of students (I might need to beef up that section) and which genres are less popular (I might need to do book talks or show book trailers of books from that genre to build more interest  in it).

Sort Books Into Genres

Another activity that helps students understand the organization of my classroom library, but also gets books in their hands is an activity I call a book sort. Before the sorting begins, my students and I discussed the genres in my classroom library. We quickly go over the genres they are able to define clearly and spend more time on the ones they are less certain about. 

Then I pull stacks of books from the different genres in our classroom library and place them out on students’ desk groups with the corresponding genre sign on top of each stacks. Since I have 10 genres, there ends up being 10 stacks spread out around the room. 

Here's 3 different activities I use during the first day or week of school so my students are exposed to the books in my classroom library.

I also place a book on each student’s desk. These books don’t necessarily match the genre at their group of desks, but are books students liked last year or one I’ve read and think students will enjoy. I try to also select books that I don’t think students will have read or had a lot of exposure to before, so no Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Babysitter’s Club, or Rick Riordan.

After a discussion of the genres in our classroom library, each student examines the book on their desk and then moves around the room to place the book in the appropriate genre stack. I do a quick check of this once students are back in their seats and address any misplacements. This is an activity I like to do on my first day of classes with my students because it is hands on and completely different from what they will be doing in any other class. 

If you aren't afraid of a little chaos and handing over some control to your students, you could do a book sort on a much larger scale. Students could sort out your entire classroom library and make decisions about the genres you should have. This would also be an opportunity to have the students help you decide if there are books that are too young, too mature, in disrepair, or outdated for your classroom library. 

Go On A Date With A Book Or Two

Book speed dating is an activity that allows students to strategically browse through several books and make decisions about which ones they might be interested in reading. It is a perfect follow up activity to a book sort because there are already tons of books out for students. 

I use a one page handout for book speed dating on which students list the title and author of each book they “date.” They rate the cover and explain what they liked or disliked. After opening the book up and reading a few pages, students record their final reaction. Finally, in answer to the question of whether they would want to go on a second “date,” students circle “love it,” “maybe,” or “nope.” 

Here's 3 different activities I use during the first day or week of school so my students are exposed to the books in my classroom library.

Students’ first date takes place at the group of desks at which they are currently seated with the genre of books that is placed there. After a few minutes, I’ll indicate that it is time to move on to another date. I play instrumental music as students take their handout and find a seat at a new group of desks with a new genre. For the first few rounds, I ask that students move to a different genre, but for the last round or two I will allow them to return to a genre of preference to look through more books there.

At the end of our book speed dating, I ask students to circle the title of the book they are most interested in. I set those books aside and put a post-it note on the cover with the name of the student (s) interested in it. While more than one student in the same class period may be interested (I work through that issue in a class period later in the week), this avoids students in multiple class periods selecting the same book. 

You can find the resources for these activities and more here in this choice reading resource pack.

I hope one or two or even all three of these activities will make their way into your plans for the first week of school. If you are looking for even more classroom library centered activities for the first week of school, read on to this blog post about book spine poetry.

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