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Walker Teacher Introduces Book Tasting Experience to Promote End-of-Year Reading

To introduce their final reading project, “The Starbooks Experience”, Jill Steffens, fifth-grade teacher at Walker Charter Academy, took a unique approach for her students. This experience hinged on "book tasting" and a coffee-shop atmosphere. 
 
All it took was a Book Tasting pack from Teachers Pay Teachers, coffeehouse décor, and drinks, and Steffens was able to transform her room to feel like Starbucks.


 
This experience was an extension of the 40 Book Challenge, which runs in the background of the fifth-grade academic year where students read toward the challenge of reading 40 books. There are certain genre parameters in place; for example, five realistic fiction books, four fantasy, seven informational, three poetry anthologies, nine chapter-books of choice, two graphic novels, etc. This encourages the trying of new types of books.  
 
The purpose of the Read-Aloud and Shared Reading portions of the National Heritage Academies (NHA) English language arts (ELA) curriculum is to grow fluent, confident, comprehending readers who, above all, choose to read. 
 
The 40 Book Challenge meshes well with the NHA curriculum and supports the Michigan reading standard: RL.5.10: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, at the high end of the grades 4–5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.


 
“The point is growth and progress in reading, rather than the hitting of the actual target,” said Steffens. “The Starbooks Experience was to finish the 40 Book Challenge strong by adding one, two, or three more books to their lists. Students could choose among the 10 Starbooks, which I showed the covers and gave quick summaries of.”
 
Students remember "magical" room transformations, as they make something basic feel special. This included lighting, ambiance, "Mocha Frappuccinos,” (chocolate milk with a splash of coffee and some whipped cream) and "Lemonade Quenchers".


 
Steffens took the students' drink orders when they arrived and passed out a book tasting foldable for the students to fill out as they perused the books. While she made the drinks, students read sections of the books and recorded information in their foldable. Then, Steffens asked the students to fill out a Starbooks page and give her their top four book choices based on their tasting. She later chose the first book for students, based on their preferences and her prior knowledge of their reading levels.  
 
“I've heard of many teachers and librarians doing book tastings throughout my career, and I'd always wanted to try it,” said Steffens. “It fit in well with the ‘Starbooks Experience’, and after a tough COVID school year, I wanted to give the students one more great fifth-grade memory.”
 
In the last two weeks of the year, Steffens gave the students time to read the Starbooks books and taught review lessons that would apply to all of the books, focusing on NHA objectives such internal/external conflict, theme, and elements of plot. Students had assignments to do while reading, related to these topics and new vocabulary words they would find and decode while reading. To complete the experience, students took a reading comprehension quiz on the book for a grade, and if they had time, were invited to start a second, or in some cases, a third book!