Last fall, I blogged about our book tasting I did with Susan Lester and her 10th Honors World Literature/Composition (Media 21 cohort) students; these texts were a springboard into our unit of inquiry on issues in Africa.   We just finished our later winter book tasting last period, and I did a few modifications from fall that I thought teachers and librarians might like.

Book Tasting Tweak 1

For this book tasting, which is our springboard into a unit of inquiry on war and veterans, I created a book tasting LibGuide.    Although we had hard copies of all the books except for two on the menu, I wanted students to have a portal for our book choices and book review tools.

In the LibGuide, I included widgets for NoveList and NoveList K-8, which we are fortunate to have access to through GALILEO, Georgia’s Virtual Library, so that students could read book reviews for their choices and/or browse suggested “read alikes” or browse additional books by topic if they chose to do so.  I also used the “books from the catalog” feature in LibGuides to create a visual list of books so that students could peek at the covers on our large screen in one of our library commons instructional areas before heading over to the book cart; I love the fact that you can sort your “books from the catalog” by call number with one mouse click!  For the two books that we didn’t have copies of but that we thought students might be interested in reading, I was able to hyperlink to the books in Amazon (although I could have easily pushed them to any other source like LibraryThing reviews or NoveList) so that students could get a preview since “books from the catalog” allows you to add a hyperlink (which is handy when you are creating a list of eBooks from a database like Gale Virtual Reference Library).  Finally, I included a widget for our Destiny OPAC and a LibGuides built-in widget for Google Book search.  This LibGuide page gave students a virtual portal for learning more about a book and reading reviews after browsing the hard copy of the book.

Book Tasting Tweak 2

For this book tasting, I followed the principle of “less is sometimes more” by giving students a blank 3 x 5 index card after we reviewed the LibGuide.  I instructed students to use one side to jot down notes to themselves about the books they were browsing; on the other side, students indicated their top two book choices.

Susan and I collected these at the end of the class, and I used the notecards to quickly and easily compile a roster of students and top choices.  Since we have enough copies of what everyone wanted and enough money left in our budget to purchase the few additional titles we need, I’m able to give every student his/her top choice.

Here were the choices:

  • 2 students chose Code Talker:  A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two
  • 2 students chose Dear America:  Letters Home from Vietnam
  • 1 student chose Faith of My Fathers
  • 3 students chose Fallen Angels
  • 4 students chose Purple Heart
  • 1 student selected House to House (self-selected through browsing/discovery  rather than a selection from the original menu)
  • 1 student selected Sunrise Over Fallujah
  • 1 student selected The Long Road Home:  A Story of War and Family
  • 2 students selected The Things They Carried
  • 3 students chose Soldier Boys
  • 3 students selected What  Was Asked of Us
  • 1 student chose I Am a Soldier, Too:  The Jessica Lynch Story

Next Steps and Reflections

Now we’ll talk to students about how we might group our Fishbowl inquiry groups for March; it looks as though theme, veteran group, or war might be some focal points for group formation.    We’ll also give the groups some options for variations on their approaches to Fishbowl discussions.  Students will use their texts to discover an issue or topic they want to research related to war and/or veterans (which I’ll be blogging more about in a few weeks).  In conclusion, I think we were all happy with the way the book tasting rolled–students had room for choice, discovery, and exploration without any organizational structures that were overly fussy or complicated.  I’m excited to see how the student engage and respond to their texts as we kick off our unit the last week of February!