During the last six weeks of school, the ELA department has a novel of choice unit. Each English teacher does novel of choice differently; while some allow their students to simply choose whatever book they want, others want to create literature circles, which takes a bit of organizing. A month ago I met with the English departments to provide them a myriad of options for how their students could select novels. I floated book tastings, book talks, but the idea that caught on was a gallery walk.
Since most of the teachers wanted the students to have the freedom of choice but wanted them to choose from a small selection, we decided a gallery walk would be the best way to showcase the books. After helping the teachers decide which books would be the best fit for the grade and reading level, I curated a number of resources to help highlight each novel. I decided with every book would be a School Library Journal review; even though each book has a synopsis, I felt like the reviews gave the students more detailed information and a better overview of the book. I also pulled resources from the Internet such as book trailers, interviews with the author talking about that specific book, and fun websites that paired with the book and created QR codes for each web link. Then I created a subject heading flyer so students who would not be as diligent or thorough with each resource could glance at the flyer to get headlines about the book. I also created a sign that read “If you liked…” to further entice students and grab their attention. Finally, using Canva I made a small movie reel that let students know if the novel was currently in production to become a movie or television show; I felt this was important due to the recent success of YA books being adapted for the screen.
During the gallery walk, each student walked around with a scorecard giving each book a score from 1-5. They then ranked their top three choices, which the teacher used to place them into literature circles. I first set up the gallery walk for a Junior Academic class who was allowing the students to choose from nineteen fiction and nonfiction books.
After the gallery walk’s success, the freshmen Pre-AP classes wanted to do something similar but pare down the selection to six novels. Therefore we created a mashup of the gallery walk and a book tasting; since there would be only six novels for the students to explore I felt that the gallery walk would be too crowded. During the Pre-AP English session, I created the same book set-up with resources for the six novels they selected; there was one set-up at each table and the students rotated in groups to each table. Instead of a scorecard, they were given a book “menu” in which they rated their first impression of the book (title/appearance), the review and synopsis, the first couple pages, their interest level after exploring the QR codes, and an overall score. The students were then allowed to select whichever novel appealed to them the most.
The gallery walk and gallery walk/booktasting were very successful methods of introducing the novels to students. They were able to get a taste of each book that allowed them to make an informed decision on which novel to select. Each class flowed smoothly and I found that most of my time and effort was spent curating the resources to accompany each book. However, with most of the work being spent upfront I now have these resources to display with books and can even create these little book set-ups for individual books throughout the library!