Speed Dating… with Books (of course)

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Sometimes you have to kiss a dozen frogs to find your prince/princess… Other times you have to throw that fish back in… Yes, I really went THERE, but in all fairness, it made for an incredibly powerful analogy, allowing students to rethink the process of selecting a French novel!

Second language learning is chalked full of challenges. Finding sensible reading material that is both engaging and at the right level is perhaps one of THE greatest.

Students are often quick to judge a book by its cover. In some instances this is great; however, how many times has a cover turned into a major disappointment? Similarly, publishing companies are very adept at writing incredibly powerful summaries, but what happens when the story doesn’t live up to all the hype? Enter “Speed Dating… with Books” – an opportunity to judge, with some time to scrape beyond the surface!

Students entered the Learning Commons to the instrumental version of the Love Boat theme song. As they giggled and “danced”, they noticed many books piled on tables, accompanied by labels: realistic fiction, sports/adventure, memoirs/biographies, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction. They were invited to sit anywhere.

It was not until “Le speed-dating littéraire slide deck” was shared that they truly understood what was about to happen. In defining “Speed Dating” and how it related to the activity, students were asked to consider first impressions. They walked about the space and simply looked at the various genres and title pages. They had one minute to decide at which table they would start.

The second minute was to peruse the books at that particular table. Students felt that looking at the front and back cover, the condition of the book, reading the summary on the back cover and even looking at the use of illustrations, font and white space, would help them decide whether they would “date” the book, or turn it down.

The final step involved looking beyond the front cover. By reading the first few pages, they would hopefully determine whether the text had bad breath and failed to live up to their initial expectations… This “getting to know you” period was designed to see if a second date was warranted.

If the student was happy with their selection, they were asked to keep the text; however, they were encouraged to keep an open mind and explore “other fish in the sea”… They were then asked to repeat the same steps three more times: they walked about, selected another genre, considered first impressions and spent a little more “quality time” with their selections.

In the coming weeks, it will be interesting to hear student feedback – Did this experience help them select a more appropriate text? Did anyone identify a French novel that they truly enjoyed? Will they Google “The Love Boat” out of sheer curiosity?!? Only time will tell…

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